To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus,
called to be saints, together with all those who in every
place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.
1 Corinthians 1:2
As this consequential election draws near, do you sometimes feel like you have awakened to another time and country? I do! I feel like the coming election is similar to the time of another election written about by Washington Irving in his short story, “Rip Van Winkle”. Set in the years before and after the American Revolution, it is a tale about the Dutch farmer, Rip, who wanders into New York’s Catskill Mountains. Rip happens upon a group of men playing nine pin bowling while drinking liquor. When they offer him a drink, Rip takes a generous swig and falls asleep.
Rip awakens from his sleep 20 years later; he is an old man with a white foot long beard and a rusted musket. When Rip returns to town he is shocked to discover that everything had changed. He arrives just after an election, and people are asking him how he voted. Having never cast a ballot, Rip declares himself a loyal subject of England’s King George. He is unaware that the American Revolution had happened and that King’s George’s picture in the inn had been replaced with one of President George Washington. Rip had done more than sleep for 20 years. He had slept through and awakened to a revolution!
That is why I am feeling like old Rip with the coming election. I feel that I have awakened to a culture that was hoped for by the “God-is-dead” philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He predicted the “transvaluation of values” we are suffering by which long held values are overturned. I have come awake to a time much like that foretold by the prophet Isaiah: “Ah, you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).
But as followers of the Lord Jesus we will not go quietly into that dark night! Like the line from the cult movie, “Blues Brothers”: “We’re on a mission from God!” I frequently turn to today’s scripture to be reminded of who we are as Christians and what our mission is in the world.
First, Paul’s words to the Corinthian believers tells us that we are members of “the church of God.” We are part of a movement founded by God and not any human. In spite of many defects among the Corinthian Christians, and us, we belong to God and are set apart by Him for His special purpose in our world.
It is significant that Paul has no hesitation in calling the sometime lukewarm Corinthians “the church of God”. But they were God’s church “that is in Corinth.” That means that on all sides they were surrounded by a moral cesspool. Corinth was notorious for being the most depraved city in the Roman Empire. Other Greeks coined the word korinthiazo (“to act like a Corinthian”) for describing acts of depravity. The infamous Temple of Aphrodite stood atop a mountain overlooking Corinth in which hundreds of female slaves served men who “worshipped” there.
It was in such a city God was gathering lovers of Jesus who were “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” The word “sanctified” (hagiazo) means set apart, separate, made holy to God as the Corinthians Christians were in real and living union with Christ. The idea here is that they were set apart by God from Corinth’s degeneracy while devoted to God’s service there.
Paul further describes the Corinthian believers, and all believers, as “called to be saints” (hagios). Note that the word “saints” (hagios), is linked to the word “sanctified” (hagiazo), meaning they are people set apart as precious to God. They are marked not for withdrawal from the world, but set apart for Christ-like service to the world.
Finally, Paul reminds Corinthian believers that they are linked with others “who in every place call on the name of the Lord”. Long before Christ’s followers were called “Christians”, they were known as people who called on the name of the Lord. That is, they were people of prayer. Prayer in the name of Jesus identified them as His followers; prayer was the source of their power for changing Corinth and the Empire.
At this critical time in our nation when up is down and good is called evil, it is important to be reminded of who we are and why God has put us here. That means going forth with what has been called “apostolic swagger,” knowing we are on a mission from God! And what’s more, we are joined with those in every place who call on the name of the Lord! It is truly exciting for us, like the Corinthian Christians, to be on this world-changing mission from God!
A fellow traveler,