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  • Writer's pictureSteven Marsh

Hope–The Holy Spirit is Rationalism’s Corrective: a Reflection on 1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Living by the Spirit requires maturation in our development as followers of Jesus. Like you, I have been following President Trump’s Executive Order which suspended entry to the United States for ninety days of alien nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries; Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected President Trump’s bid to reinstate the ban, because from its perspective it did not advance national security. The Court believed that the Executive Order showed no evidence that anyone from the seven countries had committed acts of terrorism in the United States. The Court also cited that the judiciary does play a crucial role in a constitutional democracy in reviewing a president’s national security assessments.

All this to say, it appears the President’s desire to protect our national security, which I admire and appreciate, lacked maturation in its development. Whether one approves of President Trump’s Executive Order is not the question. How it demonstrated a mature process of development or not is. Hope, believing that God will do what God has promised, demands we take seriously the plans and purposes of God. And to do that requires a caring sensitivity in listening to the Holy Spirit.

Providing care for your soul is a key ingredient to Christian discipleship. Martin Thielen writes, “Faith practices, and not just faith beliefs, contribute to our contentment as believers.”[1] And Paul confirms the devastating consequences of not putting beliefs into action when he writes, “And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.”[2] Maturing in Jesus, a work of the Holy Spirit, leads us in practicing the application of hope. To apply hope, we trust the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us in the way of the crucified Jesus. Remembering, telling, and living the way of Jesus cannot be manufactured. Noting P. Mark Achtemeier, former Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Dubuque Theological Seminary, thoughts, “…acting, thinking, and loving like Jesus are signs that a person is one in whom the Spirit is active, and thus one who is capable of properly understanding the gospel.”[3]

The text in 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 makes three points regarding a caring sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. First, live by the Spirit. What this means is that our behavior must indicate that we belong to God and that “belonging” demonstrates the lifestyle of Jesus. What is such a lifestyle? One that is marked by a life not motivated by anger; commitment to reconciliation; non-objectifying of the other; faithfulness even in the hard stuff; and the integrity of “Yes” and “No” answers.  Second, be not worldly. We must resist the temptations of jealousy and quarreling. Jealousy and quarreling are fueled by competition. And when we become “competitive” by lining up behind teachers/preachers of the word, or any leader for that matter, we must remember that these teachers/preachers/leaders are mere humans. This behavior of lining up behind leaders is an example of living in the flesh and not by the Spirit. And third, we are co-workers in God’s mission. Our employment as followers of Jesus, if you will, is not with a church/teacher/preacher or even with Christianity. We are employed by God. We are working in God’s field. We have been given the acreage of Laguna Woods, Laguna Hills, Lake Forest, and Aliso Viejo to work.[4]

We cannot bank our hope on reason alone as Christians. Believing orthodox and apostolic Christian doctrines is important. Being guided and instructed by the Confessions of the Reformed tradition is important. But maturing in how we live those truths by the power of the Holy Spirit is even more significant. Again, P. Mark Achtemeier writes, “…to make new disciples and strengthen existing ones…is much less about imparting information, at least initially, and much more about drawing people into a particular way of life in community.”[5] If we believe the Holy Spirit is the real agent of change in a person’s life, not our eloquent words or acts of persuasion, then we, in the power of the Holy Spirit, are used by God to draw others in with the winsome love, compassion, and mercy of Christ-like behavior. We must be committed to mature in the manner and leading of the Holy Spirit. Listen to this brief reminder of moving from childhood to adulthood:

Compare the behavior of infants and toddlers with the behavior one expects of a growing child, a teenager, and then a young adult. Infants cannot live beyond their most primitive needs; they must be fed, bathed, and changed and sleep on schedule, or they will be miserable and unwell. They are unable to delay gratification or to discipline their needs. Slowly but surely, parents must teach young children to manage their needs and emotions, to be patient, to learn to share, not to interrupt, to obey. If some of these disciplines are not in place by the time these children start school, their lives will be difficult, and the lives of those around them will be disrupted. So too growing Christians learn to put self-centered and worldly ways behind them and instead curb their desires and conform them to Christ.[6]

Jesus lived his life in the power of the Holy Spirit. He was faithful to the plan and purposes of the Father. Living in the Spirit, that is seeking to apply the beliefs of Christianity, translates hope to others who are seeking a better way to live.

[1]Martin Thielen, Searching For Happiness (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 128.

[2]1 Corinthians 3:1

[3]P. Mark Achtemeier in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 352.

[4]My thinking in this paragraph has been impacted by the writing of Preben Vang, Teach the Text Commentary Series 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2014), 40-42.

[5]P. Mark Achtemeier in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, 354.

[6]Taken from Preben Vang, Teach the Text Commentary Series 1 Corinthians, 45.

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