Boasting in anyone other than Jesus should be unheard of in Christianity. We join the band of faithful followers only when we admit our need and accept the free gift of His salvation. Not an ounce of personal merit counts in our favor at the start and none can accrue on the journey. Being a disciple of Jesus carries no bragging rights.
Yet Paul pointed to a problem in the Corinthian church—cliques or “in groups” forming around certain celebrities.
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)
It is a natural human tendency to want to stand out within our social group. The safest way to do that is to sidle up to the leaders. Being a leader is a privilege, but it’s lonely. Being a special follower is an honored position but without the target that comes with leadership. In Corinth, it felt good to be able to say, “I’m with Paul,” or to dine with the Apollos Club, or to make other supporters of Cephas laugh. We glow inside when the camera flashes and captures us as we shake hands with our hero. It’s great to be “in.”
Paul blows a raspberry at it all! “For goodness sake, you are already in—in Christ.” What could be better than the noble status that comes from putting our faith in Jesus? We should only boast in the Lord. Fragmenting the church into fan clubs is a symptom of spiritual immaturity and fleshly behavior.1 We must not allow the innate human desire to lock onto lesser figures get the better of us. We have all things in Christ; only He is worth boasting about.2
Paul calls leaders and followers alike to watch their attitudes. “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”3 Leaders should give themselves to following Jesus and leading like Him; followers should use the example of leaders to spur their own journey to Christlikeness. When the church focuses on Jesus a healthy unity results.
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John, good insights. I esp. liked “Being a special follower is an honored position but without the target that comes with leadership.” Perhaps that’s why the disciples weren’t quite in sync with Jesus; they didn’t have to be solidly disciplined b/c they could enjoy the notoriety as they always had Jesus to prop them up if they misspoke.
Thanks for your comment Sam.