1 Corinthians 2:14-3:15
Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 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. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.
Our passage for today is from Paul’s letter to the small church he had struggled long and hard to found in the old Greek city of Corinth. And despite everything he had hoped for and intended, this small congregation had, in his absence, gotten to bickering amongst themselves like children in the sandbox. Some of them were holding fast to what they remembered as Paul’s teachings. Others had taken to following the teachings of Apollos, a fellow Christian and evangelist who had himself taken the Corinthian congregation under his wing in Paul’s absence. So, in this passage, Paul is trying to cool the fires of their squabbling ways and remind them of who they are meant to be, and how they are meant to live with one another.
One serious point we might take from all this is that it has always been, from the beginning, way too easy for us who are followers of Jesus to lose sight of what is really important on this long journey of ours, and what is really not important at all. The one essential thing about this journey is that we come to imitate, more and more, the example which Jesus set for us. And that example has to do with the practice of compassion. It has to do with the simple thing of becoming people whose lives grow to be ever more deeply rooted in the practice of loving kindness to one another, no matter how much we may differ from one another.
There are always going to be differences among us, both within the church and without. We will never find ourselves in a world without people who differ from us. Sometimes the differences are serious. Sometimes they are trivial. But, regardless of these differences, our vocation is always the same. We are to be channels through which loving kindness flows like clear water into the hearts of the people we live with. We will never have any other calling. And there will never be a higher calling.
Lord Jesus, we are sent into this world to live with people who are not like us. Give us, on this long journey, the one needful gift. Help us to see your face in the face of the people we meet along the way. Give us the gift of loving kindness and warm compassion for each of them. Let our hearts be full cups from which they may drink up your love. Amen.