1:11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. 16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect."
Yesterday we took a quick look at what causes differences of opinion even between people all seeking the same goals, all trying sincerely to follow Jesus. We are different and coming from different places.
The first Biblical window we get into group dynamics is the Israelites on their journey from Egypt to Canaan. They are all following the cloud and pillar of fire. They are all heading for a common destination. However they are anything but united. Most often Moses is the target of their frustrations but he wasn't controlling the crowd. From almost the start of the journey the cloud went the "wrong way". There was a quicker and much easier route to Canaan. The people knew it. They were torn between their commitment to follow God's leading and their own wisdom. What did that book of wisdom say again? "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5,6)
Easy to say but hard to do. What would we say if there was a 4 lane highway but we were walking through the rocky desert?
The truth is we all have opinions and we all think ours are right and we all want to be in control. We see from our vantage point, it's the only one we have.
We all know the proverb of the blind men and the elephant. Each is touching part of the elephant. Each describes from his experience what an elephant is like. one has the tail and says an elephant is like a rope. Another has a leg and says an elephant is like a tree trunk. Another has an ear and says the elephant is like a large leathery fan or blanket. Another has the trunk and says an elephant is like a large rough snake. The last man feels a tusk and thinks they are all crazy.
Are they? Not at all. They are all telling the truth from their perspective. The problem is that the truth is incomplete but it's all they know at that point.
Paul writes later in 1 Corinthians that we all see things darkly right now like in a poor quality mirror or through a dark murky piece of glass. We see something but it's distorted and incomplete.
The trick or problem is that from where we are it seems complete to us.
Later in the journey through the wilderness everyone thought Moses was dead. He had gone up the mountain alone weeks earlier and there was no sign of him. They took the opportunity to make a golden calf. It was to replace Moses as their leader. They even declared it was the calf that had ked them as if neither Moses nor the cloud and pillar of fire had ever existed.
The real question is: "What is the appeal of a god made from gold or stone or anything else. Why has idol worship been so popular through the ages?"
The answer is simple - control. Following anyone surrenders control. We don't like that. Better to have a god that only moves when we move it. Had they had the calf from the beginning they would have taken the highway and been at their destination by now...
Check out this quote: "Rather than give up some cherished idea, or discard some idol of opinion, many refuse the truth which comes down from the Father of light. They trust in self, and depend upon their own wisdom, and do not realize their spiritual poverty. They insist on being saved in some way by which they may perform some important work. When they see that there is no way of weaving self into the work, they reject the salvation provided." (DA pg 280)
Or this one: "The light of truth is constantly shining, but many men and women comprehend it not. And why?—Because selfishness, egotism, pride, blinds their spiritual eyesight. Standing between them and the true light, is the idol of their own opinion." MR pg 298
Or this one: "No outward shrines may be visible, there may be no image for the eye to rest upon, yet we may be practicing idolatry. It as easy to make an idol of cherished ideas or objects as to fashion gods of wood or stone. Thousands have a false conception of God and His attributes. They are as verily serving a false god as were the servants of Baal. Are we worshiping the true God as He is revealed in His word, in Christ, in nature, or are we adoring some philosophical idol enshrined in His place? God is a God of truth. Justice and mercy are the attributes of His throne. He is a God of love, of pity and tender compassion. Thus He is represented in His Son, our Saviour. He is a God of patience and long-suffering. If such is the being whom we adore and to whose character we are seeking to assimilate, we are worshiping the true God." T Vol. 5, pg 173
Now can you see why there are divisions in the church? Why churches split and why there are so many religions and factions within each? Opinion is our idol and rather than let go of the tail of the elephant and seek to understand a bigger broader view, we hold tenaciously to our position. Rather than take another step toward Jesus we seek to draw Jesus to us. We fashion Him into our imagination of what He ought to be.
Remember how the book of Acts ended? It was a quote from the Old Testament. "Seeing they don't see and hearing they don't hear lest they should turn and I would heal them."
The journey toward God is a journey of healing. It at times requires radical surgery. We can't remain where we are, as we are, and change at the same time. We can't become like Jesus while holding onto every opinion we currently have. As a wise person once penned "We have many things to learn and many, many, to unlearn."
Notice what they did in Corinth to bolster their own opinions. "I am of Paul. I am of Apollos. I am of Peter. I am of Christ."
None of those former teachers were there. They were using their legacy or imagined legacy to put weight behind their idolatrous opinions.
What a mess. And yet "These are my children in whom I am well pleased."
God knows healing is messy and how will any of us see all of Jesus that there is to see if we don't come together and share what each of us can see from our perspective. That book of wisdom said something else too. "There is wisdom in the counsel of many."
Disagreements are at best uncomfortable but what is the alternative? We need each other. We are a body. Christ is the head. We all have a lot of healing to do. I am so thankful our God is both merciful and patient.