We live in an “all about me” and instant gratification society.
My wants. My happiness. My desires. My house. My friends. My-My-My-My. This perspective, which is laser-focused on me, myself, and I could care less about who gets run over or left behind along the way. With a “me” focus you don’t truly care to hear about others' life's ups and downs. In fact, in each conversation, those with a “me” focus always have to one-up you, having to tell one thing better or one thing worse than anyone else.
In 1 Corinthians 10. Paul explains the consequences and what could happen if the Corinthian church continued down the road they were on. Paul reminds them about the children of Israel with the same similarities in sin - reminding them that over 20,000 of them died in one day due to their sinful ways.
Looking back at the children of Israel you can easily compare what happened there in the Corinthian Church and what we see in society today. God saved them from slavery - them from physical slave labor and us from sin - but when things got hard, they turned away from God.
When it comes to vacations, if you’re the one in charge you tell everyone to pack light, we don’t have much room. Of course, they don’t and the car is packed top to bottom. You get ready to leave and everyone has a backpack, or a pillow and blanket. So now we are really cramped. Halfway into the trip, everyone is cranky, tired, and uncomfortable because there is no room. The excitement about the vacation was left in the driveway.
I’m sure Moses told the Israelites the same thing! Just grab your essential needs and God will provide the rest, but some loaded themselves down with so much extra stuff that they had to drag it behind them. They were not thinking about the journey ahead or the freedom they were stepping into but, instead, were thinking about the love for the things they had accumulated. Sometimes love for certain things can cost you everything as it did with the children of Israel.
As the journey got longer and harder their love shifted from God to themselves and their love for what they left behind - sleeping in a comfortable bed and eating well from the Egyptians’ food supply. This longing for what they had given up caused them to begin to grumble and lose their focus on the true mission - their freedom.
Because of their “me” centered thinking they began to complain to their leaders and even to God. Saying things such as, “God brought us out here to kill us. He doesn’t care about us. We had it better back in Egypt living in slavery. We’re done. We’re tired. We can take care of ourselves! We don’t need God anymore.”
When love for their necessities shadowed their love for God, they spent 40 years in the desert searching for happiness - worshiping idols and living in a sinful nature. The Israelite's desert wanderings show us clearly that when we don’t keep our love for the Lord at the forefront of our thoughts and minds, we will always be left searching for that next thing to make us happy.
In 1 Corinthians 10, the church was falling into these same “me-centered” desires. While Paul was there in the beginning, they had so much love for God and others and the church was growing. However, as the years rolled by, they started losing that love for God and others and they started searching for other things to fill their love tank. Church members were suing church members. They were arguing about things that didn’t matter - pointing out each other’s sins so they didn’t have to think about their own. Condemning each other because their beliefs didn’t line up with their own beliefs or traditions. The church was turning people away from the church.
Now, it would be easy for us to look at the Corinthian Church with eyes and thoughts of judgment when, in fact, we should be looking at their story seeking to learn from their mistakes and do all we can to make sure we don’t fall into the same trap.
Growing up my family went to church; however, it was not something I enjoyed or even have very fond memories of. Mostly I just remember me and my sisters being scared of church and scared of God. It seemed like everything we said or did were nothing but clear signs to others around us that we were on our way to hell. When I left for college, the last thing I ever wanted to do was step foot back in the church.
That's why 15 years ago when I decided to try church again, I didn’t know what to expect. But when I walked through the doors at Heritage my family and I felt nothing but love, care, and kindness from God and His people. I was excited to go to church for the first time in my life and continued to faithfully show up, Sunday after Sunday, while God transformed my life from the inside out. A journey that started all because I felt at home here at Heritage.
People don’t know what to expect when they walk through the doors of a church for the first time. All they can go by is what they have heard or seen about the church in general. We must never forget that our church is a platform for God to transform people’s lives. They should never feel uncomfortable, alone, or embarrassed by the way they look or what they are wearing. They should never feel scared they will be judged for the lifestyle they live or the one they are coming from. I think we were all there once. I know I was.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered and it keeps no records of wrongs.”
I hope this continues to be the mission of our church to Love God and Love people with the same love Christ loves us.