Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn't talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren't ready for anything stronger. And you still aren't ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn't that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren't you living like people of the world? When one of you says, "I am a follower of Paul," and another says, "I follow Apollos," aren't you acting just like people of the world?- 1 Cor. 3:1-4
So much is packed into these verses.
Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a conversation with another believer and you’ll realize you don’t see eye to eye. It’s so easy in these moments to get sucked into a heated “debate” (ahem. argument.) where all you do is tell each other that you’re *clearly* seeing this wrong. I've done my time in these conversations, and it sure isn't pleasant. It doesn't take much for these debates to spiral into quarrels.
And yet what is quarreling? It’s a sign of spiritual immaturity, in the same boat as jealousy. In fact, it’s the bad fruit that shows milk is still needed over spiritual meat.
The topic of the quibbling struck home: the early Christians were arguing about who they were following. As I've looked around the Christian circles I’m in, I've realized this debate never died. We still argue over the latest speaker, book, series, terminology, fill-in-the-blank that comes up and it is so divisive! I felt slapped in the face when I realized my “Apollos” was a particular flavor, if you will, of church.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a time and a place to hash out theology and determine if things are biblical. This is important and must be done. But the minute the fuel behind your passion is anything other than unity, peace, or love, it’s time to close your mouth. When our motivation slips away from building one another up in kindness and understanding, we stop representing Christ.
This is not a new problem in Christianity. I actually find a lot of comfort in that revelation--we've had differences since the “good old days” when the original Apostles still walked the earth. Paul himself dealt with this in the circles he was in. And he laid it out straight: we have to go back to the basics.
In love, we need to focus on the foundation, on the essentials, when we find ourselves in conversations that start to get a negative tone. Focus on Jesus. Focus on the Cross. Focus on the things you agree on. Find a way to see eye to eye. And when it’s time to hash something out, find someone who is at the place where they can talk with you and disagree, and yet you feel their love even as they do.
This is one of my goals: to watch the motivations of my words and when it isn't a fruit of the spirit, hold my tongue. Any other ideas how we could grow in this together?