Devotion: Finding Hope with the “Scum of the Earth”

“We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world–right up to this moment.” 1 Cor 4:13

Acts 18:5-11 “When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God”

After working in Corinth for a while, Paul’s friends–Silas and Timothy–showed up. He had hoped their presence would help to catalyze his mission to the Jews in Corinth. So he began to preach in the synagogue.

Unfortunately the people in power did not want to hear his message–the story of a Messiah who chose to spend his afternoons with the poor, the broken, the invalid, the incapable, a prostitute, some tax collectors, blue-collared fishermen, rebels and vagabonds. He told them the cost of grace. That it requires nothing but demands everything. He explained that no matter what they did, they could not earn the love of God.

This story threatened their status. It shattered their perspectives. It tattered their life’s work and achievements. It turned every thing upside down.

So their response to Paul’s message was abuse. This is what happens when those who perceive themselves to be important and powerful find themselves threatened. They respond with aggressive and impulsive violence.

Seeing the hardened soil of their lives, Paul decided it was better to abandon the religious institution. He stopped trying to convince them with words, and rather demonstrated with his life the way of Jesus.

Paul left.

Paul moved into the home of Titius Justus–a Greek man who worshipped the Jewish God. An outsider. A misfit.

It is here that the Corinth church emerged. Imagine the conversations this house church had: Paul–a repentant murderer, Titius Justus–a gentile convert, Aquila and Priscilla–immigrant tent-makers, Timothy–a mixed-race young man with an absentee father, and Silas–a man fresh out of prison. This group radically reshaped the city of Corinth.

Interestingly, though, by Paul sharing life with the “scum of the earth” (1 Cor 4:13), the ruler of the abusive synagogue system came to faith in Jesus Christ, simply because Paul decided not to remain trapped under the oppressive regime of the religious elite but decided to move next-door. That is what catalyzed the transformation of Corinth.

It is when we leave the known, and trust that God has placed people in this city for us, that we discover the transformative dependence upon God’s grace.

Are you willing to follow God’s leading out of the places where you feel trapped in order to discover that Jesus Christ is waiting for you “next door?” Are you willing to spend time with the “scum of the earth” rather than the perfect and polished elite?

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