"Ye are fond of contention, brethren, and full of zeal about things which do not pertain to salvation. Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them. There you will not find that the righteous were cast off by men who themselves were holy. The righteous were indeed persecuted, but only by the wicked. They were cast into prison, but only by the unholy; they were stoned, but only by transgressors; they were slain, but only by the accursed, and such as had conceived an unrighteous envy against them." (1 Clement 45).The Corinthians felt themselves justified in their opposition to the established order within their church, however, Clement challenges them that their behavior indicates that they are emulating the wicked and the unjust rather than the righteous and holy. The scriptural evidence is clear, those who bring strife, persecution, and innovation were the evil and the wicked, not the righteous. No matter how we try to justify our actions and behaviors, we are following in the footsteps of the condemned, not the justified.
To drive this point home, Clement sites some specific examples from the Scriptures
"For what shall we say, brethren? Was Danie cast into the den of lions by such as feared God? Were Ananias, and Azarias, and Mishaël shut up in a furnace of fire by those who observed the great and glorious worship of the Most High? Far from us be such a thought! Who, then, were they that did such things? The hateful, and those full of all wickedness, were roused to such a pitch of fury, that they inflicted torture on those who served God with a holy and blameless purpose [of heart], not knowing that the Most High is the Defender and Protector of all such as with a pure conscience venerate His all-excellent name." (1 Clement 45)When we participate in envy, strife, and sedition we are participating with the evil ones. Instead of following the wicked, Clement encourages to follow the behavior and example of the righteousness.
"But they who with confidence endured [these things] are now heirs of glory and honour, and have been exalted and made illustrious by God in their memorial for ever and ever. Amen. Let us cleave to the righteous: your strife is pernicious. Such examples, therefore, brethren, it is right that we should follow; since it is written, 'Cleave to the holy, for those that cleave to them shall [themselves] be made holy.' And again, in another place, [the Scripture] saith, 'With a harmless man thou shalt prove thyself harmless, and with an elect man thou shalt be elect, and with a perverse man thou shalt show thyself perverse.' Let us cleave, therefore, to the innocent and righteous, since these are the elect of God." (1 Clement 44-45)When we hang around wicked people we learn to be wicked, and when we hang around holy people we learn to be holy, or as Paul said, "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.' " (1 Corinthians 15:33) However, its not just we who is harmed when we learn the ways of the wicked. When we practice the behaviors of evil we also harm those around us and, as Christians, especial those of the Body of Christ. Clement shows us that the source of conflicts within our churches can often be traced to our own wicked ways and selfish ambitions.
"Why are there strifes, and tumults, and divisions, and schisms, and wars among you? Have we not [all] one God and one Christ? Is there not one Spirit of grace poured out upon us? And have we not one calling in Christ? Why do we divide and tear to pieces the members of Christ, and raise up strife against our own body, and have reached such a height of madness as to forget that 'we are members one of another?' " (1 Clement 45)It is one thing to destroy own own body with our sin, but it is another thing for our sin to destroy the body of someone else. When we tear and bite and divided the Body of Christ we are doing so to His own body and we are destroying something He cares greatly about; something He gave His own life for. Clement reminds us of Jesus' own words.
"Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, how He said, 'Woe to that man [by whom offences come]! It were better for him that he had never been born, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my elect.' " (1 Clement 45)In striving for the top, those ambitious men at Corinth had greatly harmed the church at Corinth; Christ's own Body. In trying to achive for themselves, they lost site of the price that was being paid by those around them. In trying to "come out on top" and to be seen as right and justified, they did not see that many around them were "coming out on the bottom." Clement observes,
"Your schism has subverted [the faith of] many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all. And still your sedition continueth." (1 Clement 45)We should care more about the welfare of those around us then we do ourselves. In caring only for ourselves we are showing forth the practices of wickedness. However, when we care more for those around us than for our own interests, we are showing forth the ways of Righteousness and even of our Lord Himself who, "did not come to be served, but to serve." (Mark 10:45)