The Comparison Game (a meditation on things that divide us)

4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? 5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:4-7

We live in a world of favorites. What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite food? We can choose to follow or not follow certain people on Facebook. We can favorite Instagram pics and Twitter tweets.

In some cases, there’s nothing wrong with this. I like pizza and tacos and beans and cornbread, but you can keep the fish and the turkey. Favorite foods are about the preferences of our taste buds. But what happens when we begin to apply this to people?

As followers of Jesus, the Corinthian church was to be united around Jesus not divided over other people. Yet, divide they did. Some liked the preaching of Apollos so they wanted to follow him. Some were loyal to Paul, after all God used him to start the church, so they wanted to follow him. Some preferred Peter, the gruff fishermen, so they wanted to follow him. The really “spiritually superior” (at least in their own minds) said, “No, I only follow Jesus,” but from Paul’s description this wasn’t a statement of sincerity but pride.

The Corinthian church had different leaders, each faithful to Jesus, who influenced them at different times and different ways. Instead of rejoicing over these leaders and the contribution of each in helping them know and follow Jesus, the church members turned it into a competitive sport.

stadium dividedThe church became like a stadium during the World Cup finales (or: the Super Bowl or World Series). Each man and woman wore the jersey and waved the banner of their favorite leader, and it drove them apart.

Paul’s response was simple: stop it. He wanted them to say, “We all are of Jesus,” and mean it sincerely.

Towards the end of the chapter, he wrote:

21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas [Peter] or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:21-23

If we’re faithful to Jesus, then we’re all playing for the same team and cheering for the same Kingdom. Jesus, eternity, and the promises of God belong to each of us as brothers and sisters. We’re in this together.

In our churches and in life God has given us leaders, pastors, mentors, authors, bloggers, tweeters, and others who love Jesus and seek to follow him. Some may have had more impact than others on our Christian walk, but we’re to value each the same. They are co-laborers for the kingdom. Some planted, some watered, but God caused the growth.

Instead of dividing over personalities and playing the comparison game, we’re to stand with them and stand with each other working to show people the greatness of Jesus. Even if one is our favorite, let’s not exalt him or her over another. Let’s be thankful for their work and instead exalt Jesus.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church…

(the picture above is from an annual neutral-site football game between the U of Oklahoma (crimson) and the U of Texas (burnt orange). As an OU alum, I may have a favorite side in the picture 🙂 ~Pastor Mike)

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