How would you answer this question? I mean, if you are like me, it is always someone else’s fault. It is hard to imagine how I could ever be wrong. And as much as I want to believe that I am perfect, the Bible reminds me that I am just as culpable as anyone else and so are you!
Paul is addressing a group of followers of Jesus, a local church, which is self-destructing. It is a picture of situations that still play in the church but also in our lives. Chapter 4 begins with this admonition, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:1–2) Paul reminds those follower taking sides and lining up with certain factions identified with key leaders in the church that they are missing something. Paul and Apollos are not their champions, but are “servants” of Jesus. They are called above everything else to be faithful to Jesus. They are called to adopt the attitude of a servant. The term used here for servant was used to describe an “under rower” on an ancient ship. This was a term for the person that was below deck manning his oar. The reality is that all too often we view ourselves as the captain of our lives when in reality we are only “under rowers” for Jesus.
It is what Paul says next after speaking about having the right attitude that at first caught me off guard. “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.” (1 Corinthians 4:3) It appears on the surface a little arrogant. So what does he mean, “I do not even judge myself.” He is saying that I cannot trust my own evaluation of myself. A person that does not see their part in the conflict is deceiving themselves. This is why it always becomes someone else’s fault. Paul understands that just because he does not
think that he is the problem does not means he is free. “For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who
judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:4)
The attitude of an “under rower” is an attitude of humility. It is an attitude that grasps that believers are accountable to Jesus. It is a reminder that we are not living for ourselves or our expectations but His. It is this attitude that becomes that antidote for the majority of conflict in the church and in our lives. It is what allows us to become the solution rather than contributing to the problem. It is the mindset that builds up others rather than tearing them down.
Just like the leaders in the Corinthian church that were embroiled in conflict they were blaming others, so the conflict continued. So I guess, when faced with conflict, we need to honestly ask the rhetorical question, “Am I part of the problem?” And the obvious answer with a few exceptions is “YES!” Owning my part is the first step to reconciliation.
My challenge to you is to adopt the attitude of an “under rower” the next time you consider unleashing your wrath on another person. You may be surprised how Jesus works in you and then in others in ways you could never imagine.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson