We are partners together with God
Judging from Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth, the one thing that could not be said about that congregation is that it was dull and dead. Reading the first of his letters, you do get mixed impressions about the church.
On the one hand, they seem to have something going for them. You get the impression that theirs was a growing congregation. Not only in terms of numbers but also endeavoring in some ways to grow spiritually. On the other hand, they seem to be a congregation that had some serious spiritual problems and instead of addressing the problems, they seemed quite satisfied to focus on issues that were of little consequence. Paul wrote them this rather severe letter to deal with some of these issues.
One of these issues had to do with the importance they placed upon those through whom God’s grace had been shown to them, rather than on him who was the “God of all grace.” This resulted in a great deal of quarreling and division among them. The congregation became divided into factions with some claiming to belong to Paul, others to Apollos, others to Cephas, and yet others to Jesus Christ.
How the Apostle deals with this particular issue is to be seen in 1 Corinthians 3:1 15. In that passage he says basically three things.
We are first of all servants
Firstly, he states that he and Apollos were God’s Servants whom he had used to minister his grace to them. One of the hazards we face within the body of Christ, especially those of us entrusted with leadership, comes from the importance that people place on us and the offices that we hold within the Church. We need always to be reminded, whoever we are, whatever our responsibilities, that we are servants. No more. No less.
We are partners together
Next, he told them that he and Apollos were partners in mission. The obvious implications of the factions and friction in the Corinthian church were the suggestion that there existed feelings of animosity between these two. Paul pointed out that this was not the case, that in fact they were on the same team. They were partners. They served the same Lord.
It is often necessary within the body of Christ that people have to be reminded that they are partners in mission. They are on the same team. They need to be supportive of each other and appreciative of each other’s gifts and contributions. It is sad but a fact nevertheless.
We are partners together with God
Last of all Paul tells the Corinthians that he and Apollos were partners together with God. He tells the Corinthians that what they were, what they had become, and what they would become eventually was and would be the result of God’s grace, and not the consequence of the intellectual abilities or natural eloquence of either himself or Apollos. They, the Corinthians, belonged to God.
Partnering with government and its difficulties
Within the past few weeks quite a bit of discussion has been generated in the territory, particularly among our officers, regarding this question of the Army’s continuing partnership with government agencies in the delivery of social services.
This relationship is being called into question in the light of the increasing demand on the part of several local government bodies for any and all organizations contracting with them to make available to the domestic partners of their employees any benefit currently available to the married spouse of an employee. This issue of New Frontier is intended to be part of the process aimed at helping to inform that discussion that is taking place.
One of the deep concerns I have about the discussion that is being generated is the divisions that seem to exist among us over this issue. What is of concern to me is the resulting hostility that arises from the differences in opinion. There is hostility from some of us who feel righteously indignant at any thought on this issue that is contrary to ours.
On the other hand, there are officers and employees who feel deeply hurt at the salvos thrown at those who of us who see themselves as supporting government funding while resisting government mandates, or finding ways for ministry not to be lost. They cannot understand why their very Christianity and commitment is in question.
While the issue is somewhat different than that which engaged the attention of the Corinthian church, I believe that it would be helpful in handling our disagreements if we would all take Paul’s advice to heart. We are partners together in mission with God.
In a note from one of our officers on this matter, I was assured of her prayers. She then went on to say, “I also am praying that this issue will not cause disunity among the officers and soldiers of this territory, but rather that it will encourage some deeper thinking, and more thorough and prayerful consideration of what exactly it means to be who God calls us to be as soldiers of his Army.”
To that I say, “Make it so Lord! Make it so!”