Even so, if unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting and hear everyone talking in an unknown language, they will think you are crazy. - 1 Corinthians 14:23
Being a Christian has never been easy. In the early days, Christians were treated cruelly, and large numbers lost their lives. Even when they were not physically assaulted, Christians were often grossly misunderstood and misrepresented. For instance, they were accused of being cannibals because when they took communion they talked about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Lord Jesus (see 1 Cor. 11:23-26). They were also accused of being atheists because they did not worship the pagan gods. Perhaps worst of all, they were charged with incest because “brothers” were marrying “sisters.” Christians were basically defenseless against such charges. They lacked both the means and the power to stand against the authorities arraigned against them.
But in other situations, Christians could do something about the charges leveled at them. For example, people visiting the worship services where Christians were behaving in an apparently unrestrained and eccentric manner, were understandably confused and offended by what they saw. Paul said, “If unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting and hear everyone talking in an unknown language, they will think you are crazy” (1 Cor. 14:23). In situations such as that obtained for the early Christians living in a hostile environment, there may not be a lot that Christians can do about charges of being wicked on the basis of misunderstanding or malicious misrepresentation. But they can respond to accusations of being “crazy” when they conduct their worship without a thought of how they appear to unbelievers in their midst!
Paul’s solution was straightforward. First, if God has given you the gift of ecstatic speech, then use it in worship, but not in such a way that unbelievers will think you are crazy. One way to do this, of course, is to exercise the gift in private devotion, but if the gifts are to be exercised in a public worship service and unbelievers are present, then at least explain to them what is going on. In modern parlance that means to be “seeker-sensitive.” Second, ensure that your worship services are conducted in such a way that unbelievers will be ministered to, so that “as they listen, their secret thoughts will be laid bare, and they will fall down on their knees and worship God, declaring, ‘God is really here among you’ ” (14:25).
Paul had unprecedented experiences of the Lord (see 2 Cor. 12:1-10), yet he was remarkably level-headed about corporate worship: “In a church meeting I would much rather speak five understandable words that will help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language” (1 Cor. 14:19). These twenty-four words should be borne in mind at all times in the contemporary church.
There is a place for private worship. There is also a place for public proclamation. Both should be dear to the hearts of God’s people and integral parts of their Christian walk. If people call you crazy for that kind of lifestyle—so be it. If they call you crazy for anything else—make changes!
For Further Study: 1 Corinthians 14:13-25
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
For more from Stuart Briscoe, please visit TellingtheTruth.org.