‘Deadly Boston Marathon Horror’, ‘Your baby has four defects in his heart’ or ‘There’s been an accident, your husband is dead’. These news probably changed lives. Changes appear to be the norm in modern society. Sometimes, these changes are the subtle changes in society, such as ‘greed is good’. How we respond to changes often reflect who we are.
In our recent messages on Romans, we see Christ rejected, alone, obedient to God the Father. We learnt that ‘all things’ (Rom 8:28) include suffering. Does God’s Word change us? We can also take a leaf from the church in Corinth which has also undergone changes. Many believed it is the soul that matters and that they can do anything to their bodies, that is, they can live as they like. Some felt that they have the ‘right to recline to dine in the temple’ or eat food offered to idols as ‘an idol is nothing’. In other words, I do what I want. There seem to be a similarity with the 1st century and the 21st century churches. What should our response be to the cultural, religious changes in society and the church? To help correct the situation, Paul said something that is totally off the planet: All things are lawful but not all things are helpful. (I Cor 10:23, ESV).
The command is to seek the good of the other. All things are lawful, but not all things build up (I Cor 10:23). Paul uses construction language, ‘build’ in guiding us to be selfless. We are here to build each other up and it applies to all, without exceptions. Examples of building up one another or seeking the good for others include visiting the sick, praying, giving words of encouragement, or going on course to better help others. Some of us learn a new language, for example, Nicki, Cheryln. I joined a class to learn Indonesian at Sekolah Indonesia in Siglap, every Saturday, for more than half a year before we visited Living Waters Village in Kalimantan in 2008.
This is connected to being selfless. We need to be sensitive to our brothers’ needs, so as not to be a stumbling block to them. This may entail giving up our rights for the good of others in the church.
As stated in Rom 15:3, Christ never exists for himself but came to give his life for all. Paul in I Cor 11:1 asks them to ‘imitate him’ (not to follow him). Paul works with his hands and served others. Not seeking our good but the good of others is not for super-Christians but for the normal Christian. In doing so, we will have a deep sense of love and joy! When we visited Living Waters Village in 2008, we saw the children giving their food to little Tomi who has cancer. Even at a young age, touched by the love of God, they think of others.
One way to respond to the rapid changes so that we reflect the character of God, whom we worship, is to act in ways that are counter-culture. Instead of looking after ‘I’, one practical implication could be we think of good things to do for others. If we are aware of the changes and respond to them by being selfless, sensitive and sacrificial, we will make a difference to the world!
Deaconess Dr Ler Soon Lay Vivien