The Apostle Paul must have been a perceptive student of human nature. In the opening sections of his first letter to the Corinthians, he takes every opportunity to “massage the ego” of his readers. He reminds them that they “have been enriched in every way” (1:5) and that they “do not lack any spiritual gift” (1:7). He speaks to them about the power that has been revealed to them through the cross (1:18ff) and the wisdom to which they’ve been given access through the Spirit (2:6ff).
But then — in New Testament lesson for today (1 Corinthians 2:14 – 3:15) — he also confronts them with a surprising truth: “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. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” (3:1-2). And the reason for this challenging critique? “For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?” (3:3)
Surprise! They thought they were “champions for Christ.” But in truth, they were prisoners of a worldly mindset. In light of this, I wonder how Paul might speak to us. Oh sure, he might praise us for our churches, our ministries, and our impressive array of biblical resources. He might ‘build us up’ by affirming our concern for sound doctrine and our bold stands for biblical values. But then, I can’t help but wonder if he might also give us our own “worldly surprise.”
“Look at all of your jealousy and quarrelling,” he might say. “Even within the church, you fight about taxes and gun rights, politics and immigration. You ‘choose up sides’ over Bible translations and end-times theories, the role of women and human sexuality.”
And while all of these issues matter and must be discussed in light of revealed Truth and living Spirit, they must not take the place of what matters most: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (3:11).
May each of us build on that one foundation today. And may the only “worldly” thing about us be our “surprising love” for the world, which God loved so much that He sacrificed His Son to redeem it.