"If any man does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed." I Cor. 16:22
First Corinthians is about ending divisions within the church. The theme of the whole book (stated in many different passages throughout it) is that all things must be done out of love in order to edify the brethren and save the lost. All prideful desires that tear the Body of Christ into sectarian pieces must be done away with, and the diversified unity of the Body must remain intact. Paul gives the Corinthians (and us) no grounds for division except for one: if Christ is not the center of someone's life, then that person is not a Christian (no matter what other qualities they possess). For Paul, Christ was everything: the foundation (I Cor. 3:11) and direction (Col. 2:6-7) of every believer's life. If one did not love Christ, to the extent that He is the absolute center of every facet of their existence (their hopes and dreams and actions and opinions), then they have no fellowship with Christ. That is how serious the matter was and is.
On the whole, we don't take that matter as seriously anymore. We think we do, but we don't. Jesus is not the center of our lives. Perhaps He is a part; some vital, peripheral element, but not the center. Regardless of our talk or walk, Christ is always subjugated to some whim or passion of our own, a consistent phenomenon that seems to be the one true plague of Christianity. In our parent's generation, Christ was equated with holy living (a true if incomplete notion), and soon He became subjugated to pious-sounding, man-made moralisms. To the broken and lost, He became a menace rather than a strongtower of safety, and the effects of this linger to this day.
Our generation has done no better, however. We equate Christ with loving service (another true yet incomplete notion), and soon He becomes subjugated to pious-sounding, man-made movements. And what, exactly, have we gained by this change? To the lost and broken, Jesus is little more than a handout or a bumper-sticker slogan and not Savior or Lord. It is a supreme tragic irony that we have two different generations with two different sets of ideas and activities and yet they commit the same fundamental error: Jesus is not the center. He is an assistant or homeboy or example or taskmaster or poster-child or convenient bludgeon, but never the center. With our own hands we drown Him in the midst of our own manias.
You who boast of living lives of morality and purity, abiding solidly in dogmatic perfectionism: do you pursue such a life out of pride and the gratification of your own ego? To save face before the eyes of others? Or do you pursue it because you love Jesus? And you who live to help the poor and oppressed, standing on the frontlines with pickets and posters in hand: do you rage against the machine because you hate your parent's generation? Because you have a political ax to grind? Or do you do it because you love Jesus? In spite of whatever good intentions we have, anything done for any reason other than a true, deep love for Jesus is dead wrong, a reaping of the wind. May God have mercy on us all and cleanse us of the motives that come in such clever disguises to supplant our Lord in our hearts.
-Jon Vowell (c) 2012