My future determines my present. As I write these words I’m in training; I run almost every day. Each week I log over 50 miles on the road, in the woods, or in the park. October is pulling me forward like a magnet, determining my daily activities in June. This is because on October 13th, I intend to run a marathon. Running 26.2 miles is not something I can just go out and do. It requires months of intense and consistent training. Day after day, I put my shoes on and run countless hours so that on that one day, for about three hours, I will achieve my peak performance. Like someone whose signed up for a marathon, the coming kingdom should affect how we live in the present. This is what Paul is getting at when he writes the following.
1 Corinthians 6.1-11
1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?
7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud– even your own brothers! 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Paul was bewildered that Christians were taking each other to court. He could barely believe that something so absurd could even happen. Of course, from an old covenant perspective, there is nothing wrong with taking one’s neighbor to court if there was a just cause. In fact, extensive provision was made for exactly such a scenario under the Mosaic Law. So, what was so shocking here? Why was Paul beside himself? There were two offenses: (1) they were taking their fellow Christians to court and (2) they were going to court before non-Christians. His core driving thought was expressed by the question: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” Since the Corinthians disciples were destined to rule the world, could they not figure out how to do community without appealing to outsiders to settle matters? Was there not even one wise man among them before whom the two could go? In fact, Paul argues, it would be better to be defrauded than go before unbelievers since that would testify to the opposite of the kingdom message. Besides, the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom. Notice how the people’s future role as kingdom citizens was to affect how they lived. The first question is, “How will it be in the kingdom.” The next is, “How can I embody kingdom living now in this situation?”
Note how many times Paul mentions the future kingdom when he’s reproving the Corinthians. Over and again he brings their focus to their destiny. Look, you are going to rule the world one day, so I’m sure you can figure out this insignificant matter without having to go to unbelievers. The kingdom does not only give us hope for the future. It is not restricted to our gospel message. It also needs to affect what we do now. If we are the kingdom people, then we need to act like it.