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? (1 Cor. 3:3 NRSV)
When I was a child my brother and I fought A LOT. Only being three years apart will do that to any siblings, but we had the audacity of being two brothers who were not very much like each other. He was loud and gregarious, while I was quiet and reserved. If you’ve heard anything about the extrovert/introvert dichotomy, you’d be hard-pressed to find two better examples than my brother and me.
This difference would often blow up in jealousy and quarreling. I was, and often times still am, jealous of the way my brother is at ease with strangers. His ability to connect with people just met is ridiculous in the most awe-inspiring way. We would then proceed to fight when he would interrupt my “quiet time,” sometimes even ending in high-spirited “wrestling” matches.
But the spirit we were acting in was not the Spirit of God/Christ. Baptized though we were, we were not living into our roles as part of Christ’s body on earth, indwelled with the Spirit. We acted more like just a regular person in the world, and not like we were inheritors of the greatest gift of all.
Now was Paul talking about sibling rivalry? No. But he was speaking about rivalries within the Corinthian church centered around himself and another teacher, Apollos. He chastised the church because they were allowing their differences to cause fractions within their community. Instead of focusing on living out their faith, they devoted their time and energy into dividing themselves into camps pitted against one another.
Paul calls this a “human inclination” and it tends to bear out. We, humans that is, naturally divide ourselves up. I heard somewhere when three people are together, a group forms with two on the inside and one left out. We seek out those who look like us, think like us, talk like us, worship like us, love like us and revile those who have the boldness to differ from our “correct” way of thinking, believing, and living. Instead of marveling at the diversity of God’s creation, we see it as an aberration, something the be fixed. So we descend into jealousy of power and quarreling in difference. Little better than the Corinthians I’d say.
But Paul calls us to live into our baptism, to live as if the Spirit were manifest in each of us. We are to live as if the Spirit of Christ were guiding every move. That means we’re to actually live like we think, act, and love like Jesus did. Whether this is in the church, or even with your older brother, living in the Spirit means living like Jesus.
Maybe I should go apologize to my brother…