Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Want More Chaff?

According to the New Testament, most of what we spend our time doing in the church, and arguing about, won’t last. Whether we’re talking about spiritual gifts, or evangelism, or service to others, or even prophecy, the scriptures call these “chaff”, as opposed to the fruit produced which is peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, hope, and of course, the greatest one of all, love.

In 1 Corinthians when Paul takes an entire chapter to explain the genius of God’s design for His Body – where every single person functions as an active member according to his or her gifting in order to serve and edify everyone else – he ends by reminding us that none of that (as great as it may be) means anything without love.
Jesus paints a similar picture for us of how, in the end, the earth will be harvested and the Lord of the Harvest will select only the fruit – the grain – that he’s looking for. Once He has that, the rest (that’s the chaff) is thrown into the fire and burned up.

Right now we need the chaff because, like the stalk and the branch and the leaf of a plant, there can be no fruit without it. But once we have produced the desired fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.), there is no longer any need for the chaff. This is why Paul says, “But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” (1 Cor. 13:8) Even though he has just spent the previous chapter explaining how tongues, and knowledge and prophecy are essential to the life of the Body, he reminds us that the day will come when none of these will be necessary.

What’s sad to me is how we allow those things that are intended to produce good fruit in us (like love, and faith, and hope) to divide. We forget that: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:1-3)

We divide and argue over tongues and prophecy and teaching, but these are all chaff that will one day cease and be cast into the fire. What brings us unity is not the chaff, or agreement about the use of it. Our unity is found only in Christ.

One day all of those things we argue about will pass away and no one will care. We will be one Body because nothing will remain except us, and Christ and love. What I find amazing is that these are still what can unite us even today, if we will realize that the chaff doesn’t matter.

The chaff serves a purpose, but it is not the point. The point is to remain part of the Body and receive life from the Head. The point is to remain in the Vine and to bear fruit. The point is to love as Jesus loved us, and to forgive as we have been forgiven. To be like Him. To be transformed by His love. It is not to argue about the chaff that will one day be cast into the fire.
Maybe that's why we have so little love in our hearts today? Maybe that's why Christians aren't known for their incredible compassion and love for others? We're so focused on the chaff that we can never seem to actually produce the fruit we're intended to produce in the first place.

God, please help us to embrace one another and accept one another based on our common love for your Son. Please forgive us for basing our unity on things that will one day pass away, like tongues, or teaching, or prophecy. Please let us be One as you and your Son are One. Teach us to love one another unconditionally, and to love others the same way.


*Special thanks to my friend Brent Kollmansberger for sharing this insight about the chaff with our house church family last Sunday.


b.e. foster said...

I appreciate how you boil everything down to love. I am in a chapter of my life where I like simple, am driven by love (and the simple), and therefore am encouraged by your words.

Thanks, Keith

Chuck McKnight said...

Great stuff, Keith. Thanks for this!

Hmm, as a side note, would you consider changing your commenting system? I highly recommend Disqus. This is my fourth time trying to post this comment after missing your particularly frustrating CAPTCHA...