America must take heed of Paul’s letters, words

Published 11:19 am Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Not for your sake alone, not for your family’s sake, but for America’s sake, take note of the following words: steadfastness, watchfulness, courage, strength and love. These words are originally found near the end of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. To get the full impact of Paul’s words, we need to understand something about Corinth itself.

Because of its unique location on the Gulf of Corinth, Corinth had numerous commercial advantages. It was a very wealthy city. The rich enjoyed gladiatorial shows, the games, drama and music.

On the other hand, the poor had it very tough. Human rights were not well thought of in that day, as slavery was considered essential to the economy. Besides that, Corinth had a wide reputation for immorality. Undoubtedly, the people of faith in Corinth needed the challenge of Paul’s words, and he put it like this: “Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong, let all that you do be done in love.”
Do we in America need these words any less than the people of Corinth? Our culture is sending out an S.O.S., “Save Our Society.”
While these words of Paul are critically important and addressed to America today, we people of faith should especially be mindful of two of them. First, steadfastness, which means “stand firm in your faith.

At the focal point of the faith of our fathers and mothers was a living and almighty God, whose will was sovereign in the affairs of humankind and nations. An almighty God who acted once and for all for humankind’s well-being by sending Jesus Christ to this world. And it was out of this conviction that all these other great hierarchy of values became prominent-the importance of redemption and the knowledge of God, the sacredness of human life, justice for all, love of neighbor, the deathlessness of the God-filled life, the awfulness of sin and the freedom to live. “Stand firm in your faith,” admonished Paul.
Next, Paul said, “Let all that you do be done in love.” In the midst of all the suspicion, discord and agonies of our time, we hear those unmistakable, clear-sounding words, “Let all that you do be done in love.”

I can just envision a Roman philosopher or a Roman patriot saying these other things-”Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.” But would they ever say, “Let all that you do be done in love?” That’s a distinctive Christian imperative.

At the memorial service for June Carter Cash on May 18, 2003, Johnny Cash celebrated his wife as someone who knew only two kinds of people: “Those she knew and loved, and those she didn’t know and loved.” That’s the idea!

So how will we people of faith love others in this divided world of intolerance and violence? It’s the same as it’s always been. In a world of injustice, we work for justice. In a world of separation and brokenness, we labor for wholeness. In a world of danger and threats, we pray and struggle for peace. In a world of extreme nationalism and worldly kingdoms, we seek to represent the kingdom of God.

No, it’s never going to be easy. Jesus made that clear on the cross of Calvary. But the fact is, our impossibility often becomes God’s possibility. And it’s also true that God has promised to always be with us (Matthew 28:20),

I’d like to conclude with this story. Thomas Carlisle was getting ready to go to speak to a group of religious people. As he was passing by, his mother was sitting at the door and said, “Ah, Thomas, where might you be going?”
He said, “I’m going to tell people about the trouble in the world.”

She said, “Ah, Thomas, but are you going to tell them what to do about it?”
In the midst of America’s 911, God has a faithful word to his people, and that word is all-inclusive. It involves being watchful, courageous and strong. But it especially includes standing firm in your faith and letting your faith be characterized by love.

Hal Brady operates Hal Brady Ministries in Decatur with the stated goal of presenting the good news of Jesus and offering encouragement in positive ways.