Last Sunday, in 1 Corinthians 3:1-10, St. Paul modeled a leadership quality that really jumped out at me: The Ability to Speak the Truth in Love and
But I, brothers, I could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
Well, Paul has a way of speaking directly to the people… “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh.”
Paul was telling them that a mature faith isn’t necessarily bound to chronological progression. Paul had been gone for three years from Corinth, and he’s saying, “Look, when I was there and you were brand new Christians I had to feed you the Milk of faith, because you were not mature enough to handle the meat of faith. Now, three years later, though you consider yourselves quite grown up I still have to feed you Milk. Just look at your actions – you are not mature, you are still of the FLESH.” How did Paul know they were living in the Flesh? Because there was jealousy, division, and strife in their midst.
The leadership principle that Paul is demonstrating here is that of Speaking the Truth in Love! So often, leaders in the church fail to lead. They will tell people what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear; the desire to be liked is so strong. As a result, we don’t tell people the truth for fear of offending or being disliked. For example, perhaps a friend is going through a rough patch in her marriage. You note that she starts flirting a great deal with a mutual friend. You know she’s trying to compensate for the troubles in her marriage, but you also know that the man she’s flirting with does not know that – or really care. Does the Christian Leader point out her behavior and warn her of temptation and the evil that can potentially result if she carries on with her flirtatious attitude? Or do we wait – hope and pray – that she won’t cross over from flirtation to action?
St. Paul is clear to say: we speak the truth. This does not mean that we are rude or heartless, but as Paul writes to the Ephesians: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15)
As we go through transitions in our churches – either the normal transitions of time, or the ones that have been forced upon us through misfortune – the temptation to act out, feel slighted, take offense, or offend, can be very great. I pray that we will love one another enough to take St. Paul’s cue and speak the truth in love.
The Lord bless you all this week!