“Any Friend of Chloe Is a Friend of Mine” January 26, 2020
“Any Friend of Chloe Is a Friend of Mine”
Isaiah 9:1-4/ 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
The comedy of Emo Philips is quirky at best, but in light of Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians today, I just couldn’t resist sharing this with you.
Two men are standing on a bridge. One is about to jump off and the other is trying to talk him out of it. The man asks the jumper, “So are you a Christian or a Hindu or a Jew or what?” The jumper replies, “A Christian.” The man, trying to make a connection, says, “Small world; so am I. Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox?” The jumper mumbles, “Protestant.”
The man replies, “Me too, me too. What denomination?” to which the jumper says, “Baptist.” “Well, I’ll be; so am I. Southern Baptist or Northern Baptist?” and the jumper replied, “Northern Baptist.” The man said, “This is remarkable; so am I. If you don’t mind my asking, are you Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” The jumper, whose eyes were still fixed on the water below him, muttered, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” “I don’t believe this,” said the man, “We are so much alike,” and for the first time the jumper looked up. Perhaps, there was hope after all.
Then the man asked, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” The jumper answered, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” The man replied, “Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” The jumper answered, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” /// The man then pushed the jumper off the bridge and screamed, “Get out of my sight, you Heretic!” Like I said, the humor of Emo Philips is a little over the top, but it sticks with us because there seems to always be a dose of hard truth mixed in with all the nonsense.
When Paul first came to Corinth, the city was booming. Now the city of Corinth was on what is called an isthmus, which is basically a narrow strip of land with sea on either side that connects two larger bodies of land. If you want a good example of an isthmus, think of Panama; and like Panama, the city of Corinth was situated on that skinny piece of ground right smack dab in the middle of a major shipping route. Even though there wasn’t a canal, it was worth it to drag the boats with skids and rollers across this 4 mile stretch rather than brave the 250 mile trip to go all the way around. Seems kind of ridiculous now, but that was the way it was done, and business was booming. So there you have it; Corinth was a boom town full of easy money, fast living, and a lifestyle that was fast and easy to match. These were a fickle people. Paul and his helpers had spent months and months teaching them of the one true God and how God had made himself known to us through Jesus Christ – God in the flesh. Many of the Jewish folks of Corinth couldn’t accept the idea, but many others did. A few even wished to be baptized. But there was a problem.
There was a problem because even though the small congregation in Corinth understood the importance of repentance; even though they had come to know the freedom that comes from true forgiveness by God’s grace, they couldn’t divorce themselves from the culture around them. Most of the believers just couldn’t separate themselves from their old selfish, immoral, and pagan ways, and it was tearing the church apart. Paul had taught them well: to follow Jesus meant total commitment to the Kingdom of God. No king, no preacher, no idol made of silver could ever come into the picture. The church is the body of Christ, but once Christ isn’t the main focus, the church is lost. That’s where we find ourselves in Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians. (1 Cor 10 Living Bible) 10 But, dear brothers, I beg you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so that there won’t be splits in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11 For some of those who live at Chloe’s house have told me of your arguments and quarrels, dear brothers. 12 Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul”; and others say that they are for Apollos or for Peter; and some that they alone are the true followers of Christ. 13 And so, in effect, you have broken Christ into many pieces. You have broken Christ into many pieces.
Now Apollos traveled with Paul for years. From what I understand, he was an excellent speaker. He had flair, he had style. Likewise, Peter had a certain appeal to these new born Christians. I can’t say that Peter ever made it to the city of Corinth, but his reputation was well known. He was rugged, outspoken and, like Paul, had a personal connection with the Son of God. All of them are worthy of respect – even admiration, perhaps – but they are not the Lamb of God.
You know, we have to wonder what Paul figured he could accomplish with this goofy bunch simply by writing a letter. They are immature in their faith and it looks like they would just as soon worship heroes than come to a right understanding of God the Creator. It speaks a lot for the faith of Paul that he didn’t just give up. But here’s the thing: Paul believed in the church. And Paul understood that for every soul that will chase after this, that, and the other thing there will always be a true child of God in our midst that will keep us together, that will carry the torch; that will shine the light of Christ into the darkness of the world. We don’t know much about this Chloe person and her household, but I’d like to think that Paul knew their hearts and that their hearts were with God; and because their hearts were with God, the Spirit would surely be alive in them for all to see. Paul trusted in that spirit; he relied on it.
Leonard Ravenhill once said that, “You never have to advertise a fire. Everyone comes running when there’s a fire. Likewise, if your church is on fire, you will not have to advertise it. The community will already know it.”
To be the church – to be the body of Christ – is to follow Christ and Christ alone. To be the church is to live in the Spirit. To be the church is to know the true joy of believing. Let our prayer be that when the world is at its wits end trying to make sense out of it all, let it be the fire of the love of God that brings them in to this, the body of Christ: unified, strong, and ever the giver of blessings.
Amen & Shalom