“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.”– Paul, in his letter to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 3:1, NIV).
Sometimes, what brings us together can also tend to divide us. Take for example the places we choose to live. The mid twentieth century brought the advent of the suburbs and with it the blessed wonder of subdivisions. Neighborhoods that collect houses under a specific name, either from a natural landmark, such as a river or bluff, or point or hollow. The houses are generally all the same with small differences, usually in house exterior color, number of bedrooms, baths, per floor plan, but are generally the same and draw certain people to purchase homes within its boundaries.
There is something that brings people to gather in the neighborhoods, maybe its the walking trails, home designs, nearness to schools or stores. Neighbors collaborate together to create little towns and small home businesses within larger cities and towns. We help each other out when someone gets sick, has a tragedy, or needs their pets watched when we are away.
But, all this closeness to each other can also bring out the worst, as well as the best. The community Facebook page is filled with praise and criticism. Love and hate. Support and controversy. See, despite, what has brought us all together to live in the subdivision, controversy is not absent. We are all opinionated and believe our opinions are the only ones that count. Words can be exchanged over the simplest wrongs and oversights. Cars idling too loudly, music too loud, pets barking too loud, trash not picked up, trash picked up but trash cans left out at the end of the driveway too long.
Reading the comments offers an equally divided opinion on the proper way to handle difficult situations and even on the way to vote, or how to bring up our children.
Is this just a new problem in society from living too near each other? No, people have been living close for centuries. It is just a weak human nature. The sinful part of our nature.
And as you may have found out by now, Christians are not immune to divisions and differences of opinions. It has been a part of the church for a long time.
The Bible verse above is from Paul’s first letter to a group of believers in Corinth, believed to be written around AD 56. The city was not some small place back in Paul’s time, but a city known for academics. It held a strategic location as well and enjoyed the wealth its location provided. And maybe it had subdivisions. Maybe.
But, Paul wrote to the church because of its divisions, not its academic achievements, or because they were great tithers. He told them they were babies. Or at least acting like babies- mere infants in Christ. Why? because they argued over who’s teaching to follow. They were still trying to figure out who was right, Apollos or Paul? Paul couldn’t share with them the deeper truths of Christianity, because in his words, “In fact, you are still not ready, because you are still worldly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not worldly and behaving like mere humans?” (1 Cor. 3:2-3, CSB).
Paul further explains to them that when they declare their particular allegiance “I belong to Paul, or I belong to Apollos!” they were demonstrating that they just plain immature. Paul was trying to explain to the church that it was only belonging to God that mattered, not to a particular teacher or preacher. If you read through chapter three you will see Paul explains that he and Apollos are mere servants, not to be followed as though they were more important than God who is the real cause of church growth.
We might find this amusing, until we consider that we, as the modern?, more mature? church of Christ do the same things. We find fault with one preacher and embrace another. We criticize how each other does worship, church and faith. We divide over theology and interpretations of the Scriptures.
I believe Paul would call us out today, if he were here. We put too much focus and energy on what divides, rather than realizing what has brought us together, our faith in Jesus Christ. We do not need to follow a particular preacher as if he or she is more important than God’s teaching in His word. Preachers are mere servants of God, the people He has called to share His message, and sadly, mere humans who are capable of falling short of other’s expectations.
Would Paul call us babies, today if he visited our churches or checked out our social media posts? Maybe. Would he find us serving God and growing in our faith, or bragging about what denominations we belong too, or what mega church we attend. Would he find us criticizing other Christians and their pastors? Would he find us raising up worship bands as though they were above reproach, and worthy of our following like they were Hollywood stars? So that we choose to be entertained at worship rather than joining in worshiping God? I wonder. I think we can do better.
God Bless You, Nancy