Paul, Apollos, and Peter: A Note about Favoritism

So Paul runs into an interesting problem in Corinth (1 Corinthians 3). We are a tribal people and the church there has started forming tribes around their favorite speaker. Some prefer Apollos, some prefer Peter, some prefer Paul. It gets so bad that the church starts to splinter.

Sometimes a speaker will fuel the fire of division, insisting that is or her approach is the best approach, the real way to get into Christ. Other times, the division will appear on its own and nobody stops it, so it only gets worse.

Paul does not let this division occur. He commends his fellow speakers. He reminds the church that they are all after the same thing: the edification of the church and the worship of Jesus Christ.

Granted, it is only natural to have people you connect with more than others. God chose Israel as the nation He would show His power through. Jesus chose three disciples to do ministry with, and of those twelve He chose three (Peter, James, and John) to deliver special revelation to. I’m sure you have your core group of friends as well.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having people you are specially close with, either in a occupational or personal setting. However, the breakdown occurs when that bond closes doors to others.

Jesus was quick to welcome in followers the disciples pushed away. Paul was intentional about turning all glory away from himself and back to God.

In the end, we are all family.

Cheesy as it is, the song is right, “make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.”

Barnabas, Son of Encouragement

I love Barnabas. We first meet him, he’s selling his field and giving it to the disciples for use in their ministry. Our first introduction to him is an act of giving. And it just gets better from there.

Barnabas is the first disciple to come beside Paul when nobody else would touch him. Paul’s history as a persecutor of Christians made the believers understandably fearful, but, Barnabas’ perfect love for his new brother drove out that fear.

Not only does Barnabas take Paul in, but he also takes the man with him on his important gospel missions. Pretty soon, he takes a step back and lets Paul do all the preaching, paving the way for Paul the Evangelist, who would take the Gospel to the Gentiles like no other disciple ever had before. Barnabas’ selfless love empowers Paul to become not just a part of the family, but a fully realized individual as well.

Barnabas’ journey takes an interest turn from there. You see, Paul wants to take a return trip to all the places he and Barnabas visited together. Barnabas wants to take John Mark with them, but Paul is having none of it. Apparently, Mark had ditched them on a previous mission and now Paul sees him a liability. Barnabas remains Barnabas though. So, Paul heads off alone.

It just goes to show ya: we are often far too quick to forget that the same God that called us out exclusion calls others too. But God never forgets. He continues to extend the olive branch, sometimes in spite of us.

The story has a happy ending, though. At the end of his live Paul summons Mark to his side (2 Timothy 4:11). That Barnabas love finally got through.

“How Can I Possibly Hinder God?”

This line comes from Peter. (Full story in Acts 10-11)

He has just come off of Pentecost. Holy Spirit came down, people started speaking in tongues, thousands of people gave their lives to God.

Off this high, God comes to Peter in a vision. He tells Peter to eat foods he thought he was forbidden to eat. God’s like, it’s cool. And Peter goes back and forth on this for a while but eventually digs in.

Then he gets a visit from the servant of Cornelius, an important Roman dude. The servant calls Peter to come and, though Jews did not usually hang with Gentiles, Peter goes.

Once he arrives, Cornelius tells Peter that he’s had a vision and Peter takes the opportunity to preach about it. Afterwards the Holy Spirit comes upon the whole house of Cornelius and Peter realizes that, like the food he thought was taboo, the Gentiles are now just as welcome at God’s table as the Jews.

But we know from later in Scriptures that Paul calls Peter out on withdrawing from this conviction, of just hanging out with the Jews even though God’s message is for all.

It just goes to show you, the greatest inhibitor of the Gospel is us. God is out there in the trenches, letting His presence be known. He just needs hands and feet and mouths and hearts to work through to give the whole message traction.

Will let His word work through us, even though it challenges everything we know or are comfortable/familiar with, or will we be another road block on other’s travels to the Divine?

Inclusion Rider

Upon accepting her much-deserved Oscar for Best Actress, Francis McDermott left the Academy with two words: inclusion rider. What is an inclusion rider? The stipulation in an actor or actresses’ contract that requires diversity in the film in which they are part.

Although her call for inclusion specifically targeted women, I am no less affected by it. I am a brown-skinned man who dreams of doing rom-coms. In the past, it was not our place to be the romantic lead. Or any lead other than the villain. But things are changing. There is Aladdin and West Side Story and Black Panther. In short, there is possibility now, and I am grateful. Wherever my journey takes me, I am grateful, because there are a lot of me’s in this world.

My sincerest thanks to all who have the power to make this change and choose to do so. Thank you, Francis McDermott. Party on!

The Trouble with Type: The Problem with Pidgeonholed Relationships

Type

Summary: Variety is the spice of life.* Garnish well!

*William Cowper’s “The Task”

We all have preferences in the social, emotional, and physical profiles of the people we interact with on a daily basis. We are a very tribal people after all. Like attracts like, whether that likeness comes in the form of sex, color, religion, social status, club affiliation, etc. Even if you are a die-hard individualist, you will inevitably find yourself in good company. (Non-conformists conforming to non-conformity.)

This pull towards sameness is understandable. There is comfort and security in. The group protects its own, defends its own, and offers up an identifiable flagpole to rally around. This is all well and good, but there is also a certain danger to it.

1. Variety Strengthens

As the Irish found out during the Potato Blight or Johnny One-Note discovers as his career flounders, homogeneity is convenient, but still not a safe bet. An unexpected attack or sudden change can rattle an entire sub-culture. If that culture is not willing or able to adapt, it can often fall into obscurity or be wiped out altogether.

We must be willing to let outsiders in, not to assimilate them Borg-style, but to appreciate the insights they may have to offer.

Of course, this thought is not mere social theory.

It is good dating advice too.

2. Variety Frees

We have all heard the phrase before: “he/she just isn’t my type.”

Everyone has a preference. There are a wide range of personality types, physical features, fetishes we pick and chose from when it comes to pursuing a partner. You may even have biases and not even realize it unless you really spend time putting two and two together.

On the other hand, this idea of type can also be a self-defeating one. You may be interested in a person but not think of you are their type or they are yours. So, you walk away and maybe miss out on a golden opportunity.

Take my wife and I, for example. On the surface, we are very different people: I am big city, she is small town; I am impetuous, she is analytical; I am active, she is mellow. Rather than this being a hindrance in our relationship, it has been quite a blessing. I bring the wonder, she brings the foresight. We complement each other well.

So, don’t be afraid of mixing things up.

Side note: I think we could all take a lesson from Brazil. Their culture is the most heterogenous in the world, and it also produces the most beautiful people. Just food for thought.

Blessings to you in Christ,

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