Taking Scripture out of context, often strips of its whole meaning. We do this to Paul extremely often. 1 Corinthian 13:1-13 (Love is patient. Love is Kind. Etc.) is often read at weddings as some sort of soaring testimony to the beauty of love. It certainly is about love, but Paul is not smiling as he says it. He write it to the Corinthians to point out how far from said unconditional love they have fallen. It’s poem as argument not as celebration. A similar thing happens here with 1 Cor 4:1, “Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.” Divorced from the rest of the chapter, it feels like one of those truisms that Paul lived out and so should we. However, put back in its context, Paul is once again arguing with the Corinthians that they have strayed far and should definitely come back.

Our dear friends in Corinth were a pretentious lot who didn’t need much encouragement to think highly of themselves. They were absolutely convinced that whatever spiritual gifts that they happened to have were the truly necessary ones, loved the idea of special status and even more special knowledge, and stayed firmly planted on their high horse. Apollos, the teacher that Paul mentions in verse 6, seems to have fed that sense of status while augmenting his own as well. Paul did not. The Corinthians judged Paul the lesser for it.

 One of the main thrusts of Paul’s first letter to Corinth is taking them down a peg. Chapter 4 specifically is Paul highlighting the difference between how he practices his faith, and how they practice theirs. The Corinthians work to augment their status. Paul works to lower his – in service of God. Paul essentially says, “Y’all can be as high and mighty as you like. I’m a servant of Christ. I’m only worried about God’s opinion.”

We need to hear this challenge as well. One of the essential things that any Christian needs to consider is whose judgment do they care the most about? The world certainly has a standard that we can seek to follow – one of wealth, appearance, and comfort. We can buy the right things, look the right way, and have all the best jokes, and the world will judge us well. We can be rich, sophisticated, and beautiful. However, God has a different standard, and as Paul found, the world may look askance at you for following and being a servant of Christ.

What does it mean then to be a church who takes our name, Servants of Christ, from 1 Corinthians 4:1? Certainly, it means that we must be faithful to God’s standard rather than the worlds. It means that we exist as a church for Christ’s benefit and not our own, as the nature of servanthood means putting another before oneself. The follow up question is far harder. What does it look like, in 2022, for us to be servants of Christ? What action do we take? What do we do to make it more than words on a sign?

In John 21, one of the last instructions Jesus gives to Peter, as representative of the Church, is to, “Feed my sheep.” When Jesus gathered all the disciples for one final piece of instruction before his ascension, in Matthew 28, he told them to, “go and make disciples.” If we are Christ’s servants, as Paul was, and if we then seek to live by God’s standards, we must then find what it means for each of us as individuals, and for us as a congregation bearing the title of “Servants of Christ,” to feed sheep and make disciples. This is the task of every Christian, and it certainly remains our task.