Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Full-Grown Man - A Man of Brotherhood

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church rebuking them that, at least for some of them, they still remained carnal.
"And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, 'I am of Paul,' and another, 'I am of Apollos,' are you not mere men?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)
The situation at Corinth had reached a fevered pitch. The jealousy and competition among the members had lead to division and quarrels that threatened to tear the church apart. Paul chides them for their behavior and reminds them that those who behave such are yet infants and immature in their life with God. Paul's admonishment is that they would grow up and put away such division and strife.

Unfortunately, such envying and quarreling would once again resurface in Corinth. After Paul's death, those in Corinth would once again begin dividing themselves over party lines. However, this time it was not over honorable men, such as the apostles, but over worthless men who sought to draw away the church after themselves.
"Hence flowed emulation and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and captivity. So the worthless rose up against the honoured, those of no reputation against such as were renowned, the foolish against the wise, the young against those advanced in years. For this reason righteousness and peace are now far departed from you, inasmuch as every one abandons the fear of God, and is become blind in His faith, neither walks in the ordinances of His appointment, nor acts a part becoming a Christian, but walks after his own wicked lusts, resuming the practice of an unrighteous and ungodly envy, by which death itself entered into the world." (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 3)
It is clear that such behavior is a mark of immaturity and is not consistent with the full-grown man and woman of God. Clement reminds the church that brotherly love one for another is a gateway to righteousness in our lives.
"Let us therefore, with all haste, put an end to this [state of things]; and let us fall down before the Lord, and beseech Him with tears, that He would mercifully be reconciled to us, and restore us to our former seemly and holy practice of brotherly love. For [such conduct] is the gate of righteousness, which is set open for the attainment of life, as it is written, 'Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go in by them, and will praise the Lord: this is the gate of the Lord: the righteous shall enter in by it.' Although, therefore, many gates have been set open, yet this gate of righteousness is that gate in Christ by which blessed are all they that have entered in and have directed their way in holiness and righteousness, doing all things without disorder. Let a man be faithful: let him be powerful in the utterance of knowledge; let him be wise in judging of words; let him be pure in all his deeds; yet the more he seems to be superior to others [in these respects], the more humble-minded ought he to be, and to seek the common good of all, and not merely his own advantage." (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 48)
Righteousness begins with brotherly love. We cannot compete, envy, and quarrel with each other and, at the same time, claim to have fully passed through the gates of righteousness. Love of the brethren is a mark of true righteousness.

Brotherly love is also a gateway to godly love as Peter said, "and in your brotherly kindness, love." (2 Peter 1:7) and in this Clement agrees.
"Love beareth all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God." (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 49)
Clement goes on to identify two things that will help us grow in our love for one another. First is that we put the needs of others before our own.
"Who then among you is noble-minded? who compassionate? who full of love? Let him declare, 'If on my account sedition and disagreement and schisms have arisen, I will depart, I will go away whithersoever ye desire, and I will do whatever the majority commands; only let the flock of Christ live on terms of peace with the presbyters set over it.' " (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 54)
This is not to say that, whenever a problem arises we should leave the church, but rather that, in each case, we should put the needs and health of the church above our own. We must think of others before ourselves. Brotherly love will compel us to love others before we loves ourselves.

The second key to growing in brotherly love is to learn to submit to one another.
"Let our whole body, then, be preserved in, Christ Jesus; and let every one be subject to his neighbour, according to the special gift bestowed upon him. Let the strong not despise the weak, and let the weak show respect unto the strong. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because He hath given him one by whom his need may be supplied." (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians  Chapter 38)
Submitting to one another does not mean letting others tell us what we should do; it not the blind obedience to others, but it is the recognizing that we are only a part of a greater whole and that we need the other parts; we all need each other. It's the eye realizing that it needs the hand and the hand realizing that it needs the foot. It's the prophet realizing they need the apostle and the pastor realizing they need the teacher. It's the poor realizing they need the rich and the rich realizing they need the poor. We submit to one another according to the special gifts God has given them. We don't have all the gifts, we need what God has given others, we need what they have to give and supply, we are dependent on each other. The full-grown man and woman has learned to live in such submission with their brothers and sisters.

Finally, this can all be summed up in the words of Christ.
"But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ." (Matthew 23:8-10)
Jesus reminds us that we are all brothers. Many of our problems arise when we desire to be more than brothers or we lift others up to be more than brothers. When we do this we make distinctions between ourselves and sow the seeds of division, sedition, and strife. We need to realize that the greatest relationship we can have with each other is one of brother and sister. The full-grown man and woman has learned to live as brother and sister to all. They have learned to live and cherish the brotherhood. They are men and women of brotherhood.

David Robison

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