The church at Corinth was way off-base in its discipleship, grossly compromised by the ungodly culture. Even though Paul has written very strong words to them about correcting the problem, he still was so angry that he put off visiting them in person — to spare them the tongue-lashing he was certain to deliver.
Even with all that, Paul told the church: That does not mean we want to tell you exactly how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy as you stand firm in your faith. (2 Corinthians 16:24 NLT)
This was a church characterized by false teaching, sexual immorality, libertine “tolerance,” and — perhaps worst of all — flag-waving, hero-worshiping factionalism. Yet Paul still saw them with eyes of love and was determined to partner with them in Kingdom advance.
We sure could use more leaders like that today.
I see a lot of Christians who are very angry with other Christians because the others are not living up to the high standard Jesus expects of his followers. [No, this isn't about those other angry Christians; I'm talking to you.] Most of the angry Christians don’t hesitate a moment in telling the objects of their wrath exactly how they ought to be putting their faith into practice.
Paul wants to show us a more excellent way: Instead of delivering severe rebukes (via the Internet), why not work together with those you criticize for falling short?
You ask: How are we going to work together when we disagree about key doctrines, or abortion, or gay marriage, or gun control … about pretty much everything?
My suggestion: Work side by side to help someone in need. Repair an elderly person’s rundown house. Start an after-school program for at-risk children. Get out on Friday night and minister to women on the street. Visit someone who never has visitors, maybe at a nursing home or the county jail.
Who can disagree about that? There’s no end of possibilities! Instead of only ministering alongside Christians you agree with, follow Paul’s example and work alongside a Christian you want to punch in the nose. An amazing thing will happen: That other Christian will become a real person to you, instead of an abstraction. You will have an opportunity to witness their love for the Lord and hear their heart for his kingdom. You might get to earnestly share your concern about your areas of disagreement or, even better, have the privilege of genuinely listening to their concerns.
At the end of the day, Paul promises a gift we all need more of: “You will be full of joy as you stand firm in your faith.” And, oh yeah, the Kingdom will be strengthened and advanced as well.
Where’s the downside?