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Devotion for Aug. 6, 2010

Recently, some Christian colleges loosened rules for how students dress and spend their leisure time. One reversed its no–dancing policy for students and no–drinking policy for faculty and staff—a long overdue decision, some supporters argued; a harbinger of moral laxity, opponents disputed.

Centuries after the church in Corinth, groups still use different criteria to evaluate spirituality. How do we preserve moral standards and a spiritual climate in our Christian communities? Some denominations value the manifestation of certain spiritual gifts to show that someone is spiritually mature. In other churches, the mastery of biblical knowledge is highly prized. For still other churches or denominations, someone is judged by how moral he is and how well he avoids certain highly visible sins.

The Corinthians judged one another by worldly standards of wisdom and eloquence and classified one another by these false categories. As Paul had argued, their standards were informed by the values of the culture, not the values of the cross. The result was factional in–fighting and attitudes of haughty superiority. Many within the church believed that they had attained a superior wisdom and spiritual standing, and this inflated their sense of self–importance.

Paul takes direct aim at their pride in the opening verses of chapter three. For those who take pride in their supposed spiritual maturity, he calls them worldly and infantile. In fact, he notes that he cannot even address them spiritually when they don’t have the spiritual maturity to understand or embrace what he says?

Paul radically redefines worldliness here. It isn’t the absence of spiritual knowledge (as the Corinthians might have thought) or moral laxity (as we tend to think). Worldliness is stubborn willfulness and inflated self–importance when it comes to matters of opinion. This attitude of pride and superiority leads to division and to jealousy. Haughty arrogance and self–certainty destroys the health of a Christian community. This is in direct contrast to the attitude of our Savior (see Phil. 2:5–11).

Apply the Word

When we think about advancing in our spiritual life, we often set our sights on knowing more Scripture, serving more vigorously, and avoiding sin. And all these are good! But we also need to take inventory of our relationships. Do any of those relationships suffer from a willful pride in our heart? Do we esteem ourselves better than another? Have we valued unity in the body of Christ as much as Paul does in his letter to the Corinthians? If there are relationships in your church that you can take a step toward mending, do that today.

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church.

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