Note: This is Part 3 of a blog mini-series asking, “How does Paul relate and respond to the Corinthians who are complaining about him, and what can we apply to our lives as leaders?” Read Part 1, and Part 2.
Paul focuses his concern on the Body of Christ: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
It’s so easy to shift the focus to self when others criticize us. I find it fascinating and encouraging that Paul focuses on the Body of Christ and not on himself. He appeals to the Corinthians not to agree with him, but to agree with one another.
That alone would stuff out 99% of all “spiritually abusive leadership.” We tend to say, “Agree with me or be labeled ‘tetchy’” (a word I learned just today…you may have to look it up as I did). Paul says, “Agree with each other. Be perfectly united in mind and thought with each other.”
It’s also instructive to note that Paul calls them “brothers.” When folks are ripping on me, mentally I label them “the enemy,” rather than family. I have much to learn from Paul.
Paul focuses his concern on Christ: 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16
Paul’s focus easily flows from the Body of Christ to Christ. His emphasis is not on how good he (Paul) looks in people’s eyes. It’s on how well the Body of Christ is portraying the glory and beauty of Christ to an on-looking world.
That’s why Paul readily admits that his preaching was not based upon human eloquence or wisdom. He came knowing nothing except Jesus Christ. Paul is Christ-centered in his response to personal criticism.
Paul focuses his concern on Christlikeness: 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
Review what Paul has done. He’s:
- Identified the Corinthians as holy and sanctified, express continual thanks for them, and affirmed them as enriched in Christ and spiritually gifted.
- Focused his concerns not on himself and how he’s “coming across” or “being slandered,” but on the Body of Christ, Christ, and now on Christlikeness.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like criticism or “feedback.” However, when it’s shared with me by someone who starts by building me up, continues by building up the Christ and the Body of Christ, and avoids building up self…then even I can be receptive to feedback.
And Paul gives it strong. “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual, but as worldly, as mere infants in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1). He calls a spade a spade. “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting as mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:3-4).
For some not-so-spiritual spiritual leaders, the next words would be, “But let me tell you about my exalted position!” Not Paul. He emphasizes his lowly position: servants, fellow workers ministering by the grace of God (1 Cor. 3:5-10).
Paul doesn’t challenge their actions and attitudes in order to put them down and build himself up. He challenges them in order to build them up in Christ. “You yourselves are God’s temple. God’s Spirit dwells in you.” “All things are yours.” “You are of Christ” (1 Cor. 3:16, 21, 23).
He’s saying, “Be who you already are in Christ. Be like Christ. Grow in Christ—grow up into Christ.”
Join the Conversation
How would it shift your focus with “critics” if you focused on the unity of the Body of Christ, the glory of Christ, and the calling to Christlikeness?