“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ.”
I Corinthians 1:4
Paul honestly conveyed his gratitude for the grace of God that was working in the Corinthian congregation. He appreciated the faithfulness and endurance of the churches that he had been instrumental in seeing birthed. There was something about the Corinthian church that makes Paul’s gratefulness especially noteworthy. The church at Corinth was filled with problems. You will recall that there was rampant carnality, jealousy, and division in the church. Add to that the presence of immorality, confusion in their worship, denial of the resurrection, and the practice of taking church members to court to settle their differences.
How could Paul sincerely be thankful for such a struggling church? This serves as a great example for each of us. Obviously, Paul did not require perfection in others in order to be thankful for their testimony and ministries. Paul knew that there were problems in the Corinthian church, but he did not let that keep him from acknowledging the positive qualities that existed there. It is not leniency or spiritual compromise to accentuate the positive. One can address and seek to correct the wrong without ignoring things that are right.
When we cannot see the positive attributes in a life or a church because our focus is on the negative qualities, then it is we who have a spiritual problem. Paul addressed the problems in Corinth. He pointed out their glaring error, both in doctrine and in practice. These matters were serious, but they did not blind him so much that he could not thank God for their position in Christ, the family of God, and the local church.
Have you ever recognized this tendency in yourself? We can get so focused on some inconsistency, behavioral struggle, or immature attitude in people that we are not able to be thankful for anything positive they say or do. People can be so obsessed with how things do not meet their approval, that they are blinded to anything worthy of thanks. Let’s not allow our knowledge of error to prevent us from recognizing progress. What chance would we have if God were like that? If He had to see perfection to accept us or use us, we would have no hope. Even when we are disappointed with God’s people, we should still be able to find reason to be thankful for them.