Much Ado About Nothing, part 1
William Shakespeare wrote a famous play titled “Much Ado About Nothing.” The play is a romantic comedy; it’s all about couples falling into and out of love. The plot contains lots of misunderstanding and intrigue, but in the end, all chaos is resolved and everyone lives happily ever after.
Trouble in the church can sometimes be described as “much ado about nothing.” We’ve all seen examples of how people make mountains out of mole hills. That is, they focus on trivial issues and expand minor misunderstandings way out of proportion. Something that should be a minor irritant becomes a major issue.
That seems to be what happened in the relationship between Paul and the church at Corinth. In today’s text, Paul is explaining a change in plans that affected the Corinthian church. In 1 Cor 16:5-7, Paul states his plan to visit the Corinthians on his way to Macedonia and to stay there for the winter. But Paul decided what he now wanted to do was stop in Corinth briefly on his way to Macedonia and then stop there again on his way back from Macedonia as he headed back to Judea. Scholars argue about how things actually worked out—which plan Paul actually followed.
That change in plan left some of the people in the church accusing Paul of unreliability or instability. He changed his plans too often; he was not trustworthy; he was fickle; he said one thing and did something else; he said “Yes” but then also said “No.” And if Paul is unreliable in keeping his promises, then perhaps what he teaches is also unreliable. Maybe Paul is a liar; maybe his character is suspect.
It’s remarkable that this criticism is coming from the church that Paul founded and where he taught for a year and a half. He loved those people, but they seemed not to return the affection. Instead of trusting him and giving him the benefit of the doubt, they were critical and even hostile to him.
2Co 12:15 … the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
Churches sometimes make small issues into big problems. They allow minor, trivial misunderstandings to sour their relationships. Church members sometimes get all upset with the pastor or with other church members over minor, trivial, insignificant things. In extreme cases, such conflict can lead to the destruction of the church.
Paul has to defend himself against these criticisms of unreliability and fickleness. He had to respond to these criticisms to show the people that they had misunderstood him. In his response, we see a pattern for responding to trivial issues.
When trivial/insignificant issues arise within the church, how should we deal with them? Let’s see what the text tells us.