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? – 1 Corinthians 3:2-3
New parents can be easily overwhelmed by the needs of a newborn baby. There are so many new obligations that arrive all at once, that it can be difficult to view the situation from a higher perspective. Instead of thinking about where the child will be in ten years, for example, one’s time is occupied with late nights, cleanup, and plenty of feeding. But when a child becomes older, that perspective can arrive right away when viewing old pictures. How did that little baby become this giant child? All you did was continue to feed them, and now they’re huge! It feels like the child grew up unintentionally, while no one was watching.
It can be tempting to think of our Christian growth with a similar view. We are tempted to think that by simply being a Christian for a long time, we will magically become mature. But in this passage, Paul points out that this is a fallacy. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, Paul uses surprisingly harsh language when he compares the Corinthian church to children. He tells them that he must speak to them as if they were spiritual children. He also characterizes the church as being “still of the flesh,” and says that they are not “spiritual people.” The reason? They have become wracked with quarreling and factions. In their contention, they have proclaimed themselves as being followers of Paul, or followers of Apollos.
Throughout this passage, Paul points out that these factions forget a key truth: in the Church, it is only Christ who is worth following. Paul characterizes the work he did and the work of Apollos as being different, but both were in service to Christ. They were only ever servants in God’s kingdom, and in the end, it was God who accomplished anything. As servants, they are not worthy of devotion, and they are certainly not worthy of in-fighting and arguing. Paul wants the Corinthian church to know that as long as they divide themselves by which frail human they follow, they can never experience the fullness of what it means to grow in Christ. His charge to them is clear: it’s time to grow up and experience everything God has for them!
While parents may become nostalgic for days when their children were little, many of us would never really want to go back. There are too many joys to be had when children are older to ever want to undo that. Chief among those joys is seeing them experience the wonders of this world they could not have done before. Wonders, like walking in the cool breeze, or swimming in the ocean, or enjoying a cup of coffee, can only be enjoyed when you are old enough to handle them, but it would be a tragedy to choose to remain crawling on the ground, consuming only milk. May we as Christians commit to growing in Christ, by setting aside the factions that tempt us and embracing the Lordship of Jesus. Only then can we begin to experience all that God has for us individually, and as the people of God.