There seems to be many contradictions in the first Corinthians, and yet many truths lie in those contradictions. Paul advised us not to be proud or conceited, and he also suggested that we should not exalt people. However, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me.” Was Paul being arrogant? In fact, Paul was merely asking people in the Church of Corinth to imitate his “loyalty” to Christ.
It is not unusual that people interpret a text out of its context. It is even more common for people to conceive sinful thoughts and misunderstand the truths in the Bible. When the timing is wrong, it could cause trouble or harm if we quote directly from the Bible to preach to people. Before we go out to spread the Gospel, we should be properly trained so the words of wisdom may come out of us. It is said in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” This doesn’t mean that we should live only by reading the Bible, without having any food. Fire can be used to cook and to keep warm, and yet it can also bring disasters and dangers. This doesn’t mean fire is bad; it all depends on how you use the fire. We should be very careful with medicines, because they can both cure and kill. A systematic training and a deeper understanding of God’s words are important, because we need to know how to overcome our enemy with the power of God’s words.
In Japan, having the tattoo of nine dragons indicates that someone belongs to a gang, and that he/she is fierce and tough. However, in the western world, many athletes, not gangsters, tattoo themselves. So is tattoo good or bad? Can we smoke? The Bible doesn’t forbid smoking directly. Many Christians believe that we should not light incense to worship our ancestors, because in Taiwan incense represents Buddhism and heresy. Our God is a jealous God, so we cannot worship any other idol, and we certainly should not worship our ancestors as gods. God asks us to honor our fathers and mothers, but still we can replace incense with flowers. Wouldn’t it be better if we “commemorate” our forefathers instead of “worshipping” them? Our ancestors were human just like us, so we should never worship them or ask blessings and protection from them.
Therefore, tattoo and cigarette can only influence your impression on the others. If you can inspire people to receive baptism by showing your tattoo in a service, please go and get as many tattoos as you like. If you can persuade people to accept Jesus by smoking, please smoke! As Christians, we should try not to do things that will make bad impression on others.
Keep in mind that there are two sides to one coin. Gangsters are called Fei-zi in Hong Kong, and are called Tai-bao in Taiwan. Fei-zis gather to look for trouble; they are tough in appearance, but actually very weak. Many missionaries go to dangerous places courageously in order to spread the Gospel. They are captured by the ISIS, and are killed because they didn’t fight back. They are weak in appearance, but actually they are tough and strong. Only when Jesus is in control of your life can you turn weakness into strength, poverty into prosperity, and humble into honorable.
I’ve met a guy who told me he had everything he needed and wanted. I told him, “you are missing the one thing you need the most, Jesus Christ, the son of God.” My words moved him, and he was baptized. There should be both teachings and love in church; none of them is dispensable. Paul loved the people in the Church of Corinth, but he also preached to them. Jesus Christ loves and teaches us at the same time. “We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings,” hence, we should pursue God as hard as we can, and we should glorify God with everything we do!