Recently, in closing up a Bible study on 1 Corinthians, I spent some time studying 1 Cor 16:13-14, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” That is such a great verse. It’s loaded with imperatives; clear and concise instructions on how we are to live according to the grace we have received in the Lord Jesus Christ:
- Be watchful – that is, be alert, watch for temptation, and do not let your guard down to sin
- Stand firm in the faith – Do not waiver from the truth of the Gospel, hold fast to the doctrine taught in the word of God
- Act like men – Be mature, not tossed about by your passions as young men are, but mature and ready to serve the Lord.
- Be strong – Elsewhere, Paul speaks of being strong in the strength of the Lord – let the Lord be your strength and your power in moving forward.
- Most of all, let all you do be done in love – Love balances everything else.
- Love keeps our watchfulness from becoming self-righteousness
- Love keeps our steadfastness in the truth from becoming dogmatism
- Love keeps our maturity from becoming brash arrogance
- Love keeps our strength from becoming domineering.
This is what Burroughs calls for in his rebuke of Rigidness in the Christian life. As Burroughs explores the Causes, Evils, and Cures of Heart and Church Divisions, he turns his attention to the “rigid, harsh, sour, crabbed, rough-hewn spirits.” Rather than obeying the Scriptures which teach, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Cor 10:24), the Rigid spirit seeks its own pleasure, but is pleasing to no one else: “in their ways, they will [give up] nothing of their own, nor yield anything to others.”
This is the “my way or the highway” attitude. This is the person who, rather than consider the needs, preferences, or abilities of others, insist that all things be done his way or not at all.
The Rigid spirit is convinced that his unmoving resilience flows from his strength, for he will make all things bend to his will. In reality, the Rigid individual is closer to death. When does rigor fully set in? When are we completely unmoving? Only in death.
“Men who are of austere spirits… think it to be the commendation of the strength of their spirits: no, that is but lightness, and weakness in men.”
“The strongest swords are not those which will not bend; but such as yield and bend with the most ease, and stand straight again.”
Those who are unmoving, fixed in their ways, and Rigid in their spirit will have a very difficult time fitting in to any fellowship of believers, let alone following after Jesus.
In order for a craftsman to join two pieces of wood, “he must first plain them. Except our sprits be plained, they are unfit for joining.” Love is that great plain that smooths off our rough-hewn spirits and makes us pliable and ready for genuine, peaceful fellowship. The love of God, demonstrated in Christ our Lord, who gave Himself for us, suffering on our behalf, putting our needs before His own in order to make us one with Him: this love transforms us. As we keep this love before us, we will consider first the needs of our neighbor before insisting upon our own preferences. 1 Corinthians 13:4 teaches, “Love does not insist upon its own way…” Oh how our fellowship and witness would be strengthened were we to put others before ourselves.
Grace and peace be with you.