1 Corinthians 3:1-6 (NRSV) – “And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another, ‘I belong to Apollos,’ are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”
Individuals in the Corinthian church were fixated on trying to affiliate with certain individuals, whether it be Paul himself or other church leaders. Paul said that this mentality of the Corinthians was “of the flesh” and in accord with “human inclinations” rather than a spiritual mindset. There is a lot of talk today about spiritual growth, spiritual maturity, and the difference between carnal Christians and mature Christians.
In the context of this passage quoted above, spiritual maturity is about recognition of God’s working. Spiritual growth, correspondingly, is about developing a more expansive view of God’s working. The more you recognize God’s influence in your life, the more you see how you have gotten somewhere or accomplished something that you would not have expected of yourself, the more you are growing spiritually, and the less “jealous” you will be of other people.
But what about the reference to “quarreling” in the passage above? This is a bit difficult because the fact is, believers have some very different doctrines and passions. I know from experience that it is difficult to engage in these matters among those who think differently without the discussions developing an argumentative tone. When you run into people who have a very strong conviction about something, and you say something to the contrary, the people you are talking to will see your comment as quarreling.
But sometimes I feel that I have to say something. For example, I will be scrolling through comments posted on Christian articles and videos, and I’ll see a comment that, while well-intentioned, really goes against certain core principles I carry. Typically, it will be a comment I consider unduly judgmental, critical, or pessimistic in a way that clashes with values connected to my faith. I will then scroll through the replies and see that seemingly everyone else posting agrees with the original commenter.
So, I post my own comment in reply. I sometimes get a reply back from somebody implying that I am quarreling. I never say anything judgmental or critical of the original commenter. Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder if I really needed to say what I said. If virtually everyone commenting thinks a certain way, should I have just let them be? But then, there are a few people who will click the “like” button on my comment or reply saying that they agree. I don’t live for “likes,” but nevertheless, it is meaningful to me to know that somebody read what I had to say and found it interesting. Perhaps they too were uneasy with the prevailing sentiment but did not know how to express what they thought or how to make a case for their own view. Perhaps they will think about something I said as they go about their day, and maybe this will lead to their own realization of something that will have a positive impact for them.
If what I say is able to have this impact for somebody, I do not consider it quarreling in the way that Paul describes in the passage above, because my objective is not to be dissentious. That said, the content of what I say is better if it comes from a desire to express the values I have to help people, rather than making a pronouncement of the fact I disagree with something that was said. I try to focus on appreciating the values that I believe God has instilled in me, rather than focusing on how those values differ from those of other people.
The next post in this series will continue on in Chapter 3 of this epistle.