My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. 1 Cor 16:24
Corinth was certainly a struggling church! Think about it … disorderly worship services, sexual immorality, idolatry, worldliness, members of the church in law suits, division, false doctrine … can anything be worse than all this? How is it possible that such a struggling, deeply flawed church can be turned around? If the Corinthian church were around today, we might be tempted to give up and close its doors. Others would suggest it might be revitalized with new leadership or perhaps a new mission statement. Some might suggest they just change the structure, lose the suit and tie, modify the music style, and service time and break up into a lot of small groups – preach less, discuss more, and serve coffee during every service. Whatever the case, it is certain that few churches presented any more challenge to the apostle Paul than Corinth did, yet at the end of a letter full of rebuke and disapproval, Paul affirms His love for them. It certainly does not seem as though Paul was going to give up on them easily.
Paul loved the church at Corinth, and his love was demonstrated in the fact that he was open with them. He did not keep his corrective instruction hidden. He applied Proverbs 27:5: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” He loves these people enough to confront them; but then he loves them enough to teach them – not just give orders, but to patiently teach and model Christian love to the church he loved. It was in loving, Christian strength that Paul sent this epistle.
The church on earth is marred, bruised, and weak; her people are redeemed sinners who will still sin, and at times you will be the target of their sins. In all honesty, sometimes fellow Christians are the hardest people in the world to love; but nevertheless, that is what we are called to do – love one another in the body of Christ. How do we do this? Paul’s love for God’s people comes from his own love for the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 22). As we love Christ more, we begin to love the things that He loves, not the least of which is His church.