Weaning

 I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Even now you are still not ready. You are still worldly [controlled by ordinary impulses, the sinful capacity]. For as long as there is jealousy and strife and discord among you, are you not unspiritual, and are you not walking like ordinary men [unchanged by faith]? For when one of you says, “I am [a disciple] of Paul,” and another, “I am [a disciple] of Apollos,” are you not [proving yourselves unchanged, just] ordinary people? 

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Just servants through whom you believed [in Christ], even as the Lord appointed to each his task.

1 Corinthians 3:2-5 (AMP)

Every time – every single time – we followers of Christ disagree with one another, dismissing another person, being angry with them or disrespectful, we too prove ourselves unchanged by faith, untouched by the spirit and ‘walking like ordinary men’. It is good and right to discuss, to thrash out the core of our faith, to disagree and to agree to disagree, but when we do this without humility, without love, we may as well dismiss Christ.

What would this scripture read if instead of being either disciples of Paul or Apollos, it was paraphrased as ‘For when one of you says, “I follow John Piper,” and another, “I follow Ann Voskamp,” another, “I follow Bill Hybels”, yet another, “I follow Rachel Held Evans”, are you not proving yourselves unchanged, just ordinary people?’

Granted this analogy doesn’t quite compare because saying I like the teachings of a particular person is not the same as saying ‘I follow the teachings of this person to the exclusion of other persons’. What it does show is that we should be careful to not place ourselves, or another human being, on a pedestal. We – or they – can only fall. No one person or group or denomination has it ALL right when it comes to interpreting the bible or living out the Christian faith. We ALL get things wrong. We should expect to not have the answers to everything, all the while striving forward towards the goal of a life fully committed to Christ in heart, action and understanding.

If you have to disagree – don’t forget to be kind. I love how The Message paraphrases this same passage:

…I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way? When one of you says, “I’m on Paul’s side,” and another says, “I’m for Apollos,” aren’t you being totally infantile?

Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master.

 

Lent: What is Love?

Rachel Held Evans wrote a thought-provoking post today over on her blog.

‘One of the most destructive mistakes we Christians make is to prioritize shared beliefs over shared relationship, which is deeply ironic considering we worship a God who would rather die than lose relationship with us.’

Rachel Held Evans, post ‘My Parents‘.

This echoes an unrelated post, from Contemplative in the Mud, about the need for relationship to be the primary expression of love (a post so good I printed it off and stuck it on my fridge). Ben writes:

‘Before all projects, before all plans, before all works and actions is being… How could we have forgotten the overriding value of simply who and what we are, in a kind of rest at the centre of our heart, which overflows onto the tiniest of our gestures, lines on our face, attention to details in the lives of others, and so on? How could we have forgotten that, beneath all the action anyone could do to or with others, there exists the substructure of the relationship in itself?’

Contemplative in the Mud, post ‘Before All Else: Being

Indeed, both of these posts reach the heart of Paul’s famous words to the church at Corinth:

If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal… 

This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.

Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails.

Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen…

In this life we have three great lasting qualities—faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1,4-8,13 (Phillips)

Paul goes to great lengths to establish love as the source of everything else, and this is echoed elsewhere in the bible: in the book of Isaiah, in the Psalms, in Jesus’ own words in the Gospels, in the book of James, in Paul’s letters to other churches… and that’s just off the top of my head! The list goes on.

So why do we still insist that being right is more important than being loving? Am I without sin, that I may throw the first stone at the one who is ‘wrong’? Did Jesus emphasise ‘rightness’ first? Or did He, in fact, emphasise relationship first, as Rachel, Ben and the biblical writers suggest?

EMDR, LENT, TRAINING

I’ve had to take a break from my studies to focus on getting well. It was the right decision, but sometimes, if I compare myself to the world, I can’t help but see all that I missed. My peers went to school; I missed school. My peers did their A-levels and went off to university; I didn’t. My peers began jobs and careers; I didn’t.

It’s not that I resent the fact that I never had any of these things, because what difference does resentment make? None! So it’s a useless, destructive thing to hang onto. Nonetheless it would be so easy to feel ‘less than’. In the past few weeks of EMDR, I have had to face the extent and depth of my brokenness, but I have been strangely surprised by my strength too. Genuinely surprised. I may not have pieces of paper to prove my ‘qualifications’, but God has had me in training for years, just as today’s email from the Open Doors ‘Step of Yes’ series said. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, so God has said to all of us today:

‘…you don’t need any written instructions. God himself is teaching you to love each other, and you are already extending your love… make it your ambition to have no ambition!’

1 Thessalonians 4:9,10 (JB Phillips)