Contentions

From the early days of Christianity, there were already divisions and contentions.

In the chapter 1 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, we see such arguments. In his letter to the early church members in Corinth, Paul the Apostle expressed his concerns.

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

1 Corinthians 1:11-13

Some were in favor of Paul. Others were for Apollos. Still, others were for Cephas or Christ. People were arguing one another to claim who must be the best teachers they should follow. Perhaps, there were already various teachers and preachers who claimed themselves as the authorities and experts about Christianity.

That is not Christianity alone. In all religions, moreover, in all human activities, we are destined to be divided in such contentions. In the fields of academe, there are numerous schools where the authorities claim their expertise. In seeking knowledge and wisdom, therefore, finding and following these teachers are our default behaviors.

On the one hand, such behaviors should be part of the necessary steps for the evolution and development of human civilizations. On the other hand, however, our conflicts are endless because of them, which would be even toxic and destructive once we are blindly obsessed.

Unfortunately, religion is the source of such obsession as Paul clearly expressed his concerns in the early days of the churches.

In the history of religions, we saw numerous people who claimed themselves as the experts and authorities, that was even the source and foundation of the doctrinal, theological developments. That is why there are countless religious groups, denominations, schools, churches, temples, teachers, preachers, and gurus.

We always seek our teachers and make ourselves divided, saying, “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” In the same manner, we can put the various names there; they could be the founders of the denominations and schools.

One reason is that every teaching is, after all, one’s interpretation of the original. Understanding more inevitably requires specific analysis, called hermeneutics. Thus, once we become the followers of one particular view of the world and universe, consciously or unconsciously, we seek a set of interpretations with their experts and authorities.

That is why Paul expressed his sentiment as follows by citing the words of Isaiah (29:14).

For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

1 Corinthians 1:19-20

Paul’s concern was that there were too many contentions and involved teachers because of too many interpretations. And he even said that these explanations were merely the “wisdom” of the people who claimed themselves wise. They were no more than the disputers of this world. Their activities were the mere manifestations of one another’s self-righteousness.

In his letters to the people in Galatia, even Paul called them foolish as they were also fond of the “modified” teachings of various teachers and experts around.

O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

Galatians 3:1

In our present days, we also see numerous teachers, experts, authorities, and gurus who claim themselves the only way and truth. The tragedy is that such “claims” can be a good business model for them to earn a lot of money. We are now in the age of selling and consuming wisdom. Thus, spirituality and self-help are now one of the striving business industries.

Those business models are everywhere, from bookstores and modern churches to SNS platforms. We sell and consume wisdom and some earn money as the teachers; even some become millionaires.

Indeed, that is the wisdom of this world.

Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

1 Corinthians 1:20

Why can’t we stop seeking such wisdom of this world? Why can’t we stop selling, consuming, and earning out of this wisdom? Paul also said:

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

1 Corinthians 1:22-23

Wether we like or not, we require a sign and seek after wisdom. In doing so, we become blindly obsessed. What we are supposed to know would look like a foolish stumbling block. We are in this world and of this world. We see everything in the way we like to see.

How can we open our eyes?

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

1 Corinthians 1:27

Paradoxically enough, we have to close our worldly eyes. Or, we have to accept the truth that our flesh eyes are not for this purpose. We have to forget ourselves. When we stop our will, God wills on our behalf. We must be poor in spirit.

When we go out of ourselves through obedience and strip ourselves of what is ours, then God must enter into us; for when someone wills nothing for themselves, then God must will on their behalf just as he does for himself.

Meister Eckhart

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3

Otherwise, we can never stop seeking our false teachers on earth in our obsession with the wisdom of this world, without knowing the kingdom of heaven is at hand only if we repent.

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 4:17

Image by Eli Digital Creative

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