As August ends and September begins with Labor Day just around the corner, I’m reminded that much of 2020 has been consumed by various crises.
Many of the challenges we’ve faced seem to be centered around COVID-19 which have contributed to health care crisis, financial crisis, and national and international crisis. This has affected families, churches, businesses, colleges, sports and our most cherished institutions.
Additionally, issues of racism have been reignited with the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands (or more specifically, the knee) of a white Minneapolis cop. Since then there have been other deaths that sparked further racial unrest.
We’ve witnessed protests in the streets of our major cities, and unfortunately those who’ve taken advantage of the situation with rioting, looting and destroying businesses.
If all of this wasn’t enough, its occurred in a Presidential election year when everything is politicized. We are a people polarized politically, socially, and ideologically on some of the most important issues of our day. And some not so important. This has led to heated, vitriolic speech on both sides of the divide.
This morning as I looked ahead at our Bible reading for the week in 1 Corinthians, I’m reminded that the apostle Paul wrote to a church that was divided. They were divided over preachers. Moral issues. Marriage problems. Miraculous gifts. Doctrinal differences. Women’s roles. And even in their worship and communion service.
A word that finds itself repeated by Paul over and over again in the epistle is “spiritual.” The root of all their problems was a lack of spirituality. Instead they were carnal.
The word spiritual refers to the soul. The spirit. The inner man. It speaks to one who is sensitive to and guided by the Spirit.
On the other hand the carnal person is governed by the flesh. By physical considerations. And material concerns.
Paul observed that the carnal man cannot understand spiritual things. Why? Because he lacks spiritual discernment (1 Cor. 2:13-16). Unfortunately, in this letter to Christians, he lamented, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1).
The Corinthian conundrum is our challenge today.
Bill Bennett’s observations in his 1990’s best seller, “The Book of Virtues,” is more applicable than ever. “I submit to you that the real crisis of our time is spiritual.”
Furthermore, Bennett asserts “A human being without faith, without reverence for anything, is a human being morally adrift.”
Our culture is morally adrift.
We shake our heads and wonder “what happened?” “Why?” And “how can we fix it?”
William Barclay’s explanation of the Corinthian passage provides some insight. He points out that the carnal man is driven by material needs, physical desires and worldly values.
“A man like that cannot understand spiritual things. A man who thinks that nothing is more important than the satisfaction of the sex urge cannot understand the meaning of chastity; a man who ranks the amassing of material things as the supreme end of life cannot understand generosity; and a man who has never a thought beyond this world cannot understand the things of God. To him they look mere foolishness.”
Then he offers his sobering warning and significant admonition, “It is easy to become so involved in the world that there exists nothing beyond it. We must pray to have the mind of Christ, for only when he dwells within us are we safe from the encroaching invasion of the demands of material things.”
If we are to fulfill Jesus’ desire for his followers to truly be “the salt of the earth” and to shine “as the light of the world” (Matt 5:13-16), we must seek to be spiritual.
…To be more concerned about the state of the soul, than the state of the union.
…To put greater value on our spiritual riches than our Roth IRA’s.
…To invest more time in spiritual activity than physical exercise.
..To live with heaven on our mind, instead of minding the things of men.
…To devote greater commitment to the profession of our faith, than our earthly occupations.
…To work more diligently to convert people to Christ instead of convincing them how to vote.
…To be more concerned about what’s right, rather than who’s right.
…To focus more on God’s Word than posting on social media.
…To seek Divine favor instead of human recognition.
…To admit that the spiritual is more important, of greater value, of higher priority and ultimately more enduring than the physical and the material.
Finally, seriously consider the words of the French philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman