But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. (I Corinthians 11:17 NIV).
I will be the first to admit that the title of this blog post is a little bit unusual. In fact, some of my readers might actually think that it is a typo, or others might have read it so quickly that they actually misread it to say something that it does not say. I assure you: it is no typo. I meant what I wrote: sometimes Christians need to purposefully hurt other people’s feelings.
This is precisely what the Apostle Paul has been doing in the book of I Corinthians. Yes, Paul was tender hearted, and would take great care not to offend other Christians without reason, but he could also be brutally honest when he had to be. The verse above is one of these cases. Paul, in this passage, is in the middle of giving the Corinthian church instruction on how they should be conducting church services. His advice includes a lot of rebuke, and the Apostle Paul is worried that the Corinthian Christians might accidentally interpret it as praise. He knows that they are doing some things horribly wrong in their church, and so he explicitly tells them so. He says clearly: I do not praise you. He wants them to understand that their church services are performed in such an extremely unloving and arrogant manner that they come together not for the better but for the worse. Of course, this bold condemnation is going to hurt their feelings, but that is exactly what he is trying to do. It would be wrong for him to not hurt their feelings, for how else would they be motivated to repent? Indeed, if you love someone, sometimes you need to tell them that they are wrong, and you have to do it so brazenly and clearly that they will not misunderstand you and interpret your words as praise. That is what the Apostle Paul is doing here, and that is what we sometimes need to do to our brothers and sisters in Christ.