"For it has been reported to me that there are quarrels among you . . . What I mean is each of you says, 'I belong to Paul,' or 'I belong to Apollos,' or 'I belong to Peter,' or 'I belong to Christ.'" - 1 Corinthians 1:11-12
Something seems wrong here, that is with Paul's words above. I get that it's a (frequent) problem when people idolize a human leader ("Nothing's been the same since Dr. Smith left!!")
But "I belong to Christ"? I mean isn't that, like, the right answer? Shouldn't we want people in the church, each and every one to say, "I belong to Christ," or (in another translation) "I follow Christ." If this were a multiple choice test, isn't the answer "D"?
Yes and no.
Yes, for sure, the point is to follow Christ and to belong to him.
No, because in the context of the divided Corinthian Church, the "I belong to Christ" of one faction was a proud boast that carried with it an unspoken accusation, "but I'm not so sure about you!" Paul found fault with their assertion because "We belong to Christ" was saying, "We're the true, the real Christians here, and you others are not."
To confess Christ, to say "I belong to Christ" cannot ever be a proud boast of one's spiritual attainment or being part of the divinely selected in-group. To say, "I belong to Christ" is a word of surrender and confession of one's need for grace.
To say "I follow Christ" is to say, as Paul pretty much does a little further on in this letter, "In the strange wisdom of God, God called a person as flawed and foolish as a follower. God (not me) is amazing."
Gracious God, grant me the gift of a cleansing humility and a capacity to walk humbly with you this day. Amen.
Anthony B. Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul's Letters to Timothy for a New Day, and he is also the author of Book of Exodus: A God is still speaking Bible Study. Read his weekly reflections on the current lectionary texts at www.anthonybrobinson.com by clicking on Weekly Reading.