A Brief Meditation for the Month

May 2023

When the apostle Paul commended the Christians in Corinth for the sincerity of their repentance, after he reproved them for their attitude of tolerance toward immoral conduct within the church community, he mentioned, among other things, “carefulness” as evidence. 2 Corinthians 7:11. The Corinthians grieved with conviction in repentance. Paul referred to it as “godly sorrow,” distinct from “the sorrow of the world.” He said the Corinthians “sorrowed after a godly sort” and “sorrowed to repentance.” 2 Corinthians 7:9; 11. It is, therefore, to be observed that when the Holy Spirit works in a soul to produce genuine repentance for sin, it results in personal carefulness of life. The word Paul uses when addressing the Corinthians comes from a root, meaning to act quickly. When these believers in Corinth received the apostle’s rebuke for their slothful attitude to sin in their midst, they took swift action to deal with the previously ignored offence. This carefulness exhibited itself in their eager and earnest action to deal with sin in their midst and avoid being associated with it. The necessary action to deal with the problem, which they had failed to take in the past, had become a priority issue, recognized as requiring swift action.

Paul’s writing to the Corinthians implied a change of attitude that had become evident among them. Their attitude of slothful indifference changed to one of thoughtful and serious carefulness regarding what was offensive to God and unbecoming a Christian profession. Comparing the attitudes of many today who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ with that of the Corinthians, we can only conclude that the fear of offending God has largely disappeared. As a boy growing up, I can well recall certain Christians in the community being referred to as being “very careful.” The personal lives of these persons were marked by carefulness in all their dealings with their fellows. They were careful in business, careful about their personal behaviour and morals. Carefulness marked their speech and conversations. Likewise, carefulness about the worship of God both in public and in private: reverence for God’s house and his day was a distinguishing feature of their character. These dear souls lived with the attitude of the Psalmist, who penned the words of personal testimony: “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day…thy testimonies are my meditation.” Psalm 119:97; 99. With the Psalmist, they could claim: “Through thy precepts, I get understanding: therefore, I hate every false way,” and, “Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way.” Psalm 119:104; 128. Regrettably, those of God’s children who think and act like this today are quite often, in a somewhat derogatory way, branded as being “legalistic.” Increasingly, the attitude is that since we are saved by grace, there is no need to be too conscientious or over-sensitive to keeping God’s commandments. Gospel liberty has been transformed into a licence to sin to such a degree that it has become difficult to distinguish a Christian from a non-Christian. Professed grace does not appear to change personal lifestyle or reform attitudes to sin and what offends God. Contemporary philosophy is to think positively about oneself, permitting no negative thoughts to intrude into the mind: imagining I have sinned and offended God by disobeying his commandment is not healthy thinking and must be avoided at all costs as personally damaging. Nevertheless, our Saviour’s rule for the believer’s life remains: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15. Is biblical gospel carefulness evident in our lives as Christians?

G. G. Hutton.