What this chapter reminds us of is the importance of humility. Our very knowledge of God is limited as indicated by the fact that the Apostle Paul describes our role as mere “stewards of the mysteries of God” (4:1). Our responsibility is to be faithful (v. 2). One of the most difficult things is not to judge one another. As a pastor, and now as a teacher of pastors, I have learned that it is important to realize that there is often more to the story than we know.
I will never forget the person who wanted to be baptized. When I sat down with the husband and wife in my office, they each sat at opposite ends of the room. After a few minutes I decided to ask them about their marriage. He confessed that he was attracted to other women. I urged him that while I was happy that he wanted to be baptized, that we first needed to talk about this problem. He reacted and went so far as to tell others what a mean pastor I was in not baptizing him. Church members came to me wondering why I didn’t baptize him, but I was unable to share with them what really was going on.
We rarely know the whole story, and as such we should be careful not to judge others, but leave judgment in the hands of God. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts (v. 5). The Apostle Paul reminds us that there is more to our own story than we realize. As Christians we represent Christ to the world, and before the universe. “For we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men” (v. 9). Our story is part of a larger story.
“Being reviled we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world . . . until now” (vs. 12,13). It’s notable that when the Christian martyr, John Hus, perished in the flames centuries ago, it was because he stubbornly refused to give up his faith, and told his accusers: “God is my witness that . . . the principal intention of my preaching and of all my other acts or writings was solely that I might turn men from sin. And in that is the truth of the Gospel that I wrote, taught, and preached . . . I am willing gladly to die today.” When he was tied to a post, and as the flames and smoke rose, his voice could be heard in song. “Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me.”
Michael W. Campbell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Historical/Theological Studies
Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies