When Everything is a Competition
Reflecting on the Second Sunday after the Epiphany: Two Days After Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 145
Old Testament: Song of Solomon 4:1-8
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1:2-17
God beyond all seeing and knowing, we meet you in the night of change and crisis, and wrestle with you in the darkness of doubt. Give us the will and spirit to live faithfully and love as we are loved. Amen.
If a football team is going to win games the players must work together, and they must understand the value of their respective positions and roles on the field. The quarterback needs to have an offensive line who can protect him, the receivers need to have a quarterback who can throw accurately, and the quarterback needs receivers who can catch. If any of these players cannot be counted on to play their roles well, it will be difficult for the other teammates on the field to count on them. Winning will become difficult. Even worse, if the players start fighting and bickering amongst themselves, all of their necessary and diverse roles that must come together to play well will not be possible without a fundamental togetherness, a fundamental unity.
The Christians at Corinth are quite a diverse congregation, and there is little unity to speak of. Indeed, there appears to be in-fighting, a competitive spirit, and arrogant snobbery in the ranks. Their worship is selfish and inconsiderate (at The Lord's Supper; 1 Corinthians 11:17-22), and they have prioritized some spiritual gifts over others. If the Corinthians are indeed the Body of Christ, their life together and worship suggest otherwise. They have even turned baptism into a competition as to whose is better.
For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Paul reminds the Corinthians that the diversity of gifts among them should contribute to their unity as each member plays her or his individual role. Such diversity is for the edification of the Body. Each expression of the Spirit is for the common good (v. 7).
And that same Spirit gives the diversity of gifts to each individual as the Spirit chooses (1 Corinthians 1:11-13).
The Spirit will do what the Spirit will do.