Scripture Readings: 1 Corinthians 3:1-23, John 5:24, Romans 5:1
My first year of high school, I was placed on the junior varsity cheerleading squad. This shouldn’t have been such a big deal. I was a freshman, after all. But most of friends had made it to the varsity squad, where the girls were clad in glittery uniforms, while the JV team only had t-shirts with iron-on decals.
At the first JV football game of the season, I tumbled across the track, throwing my back handsprings like a circus performer. I wanted to make sure the varsity cheerleaders knew a mistake had been made: clearly, they should have given me a spot on their coveted squad. When I got home that night, exhausted yet satisfied that I’d done the job, my mother let it slip that she’d “enjoyed the Claire show.” Her words stung, but I got the message. I was being prideful, and she’d seen right through my charade.
When I think about pride, I often think about myself at that JV game. I was so convinced I deserved a position on the varsity squad that I spent the night showing off, rather than actually paying attention to the football game. After all, football was the whole reason we were there. The cheering was secondary.
Paul calls out the Corinthians on this same kind of sophomoric pride. He calls out their useless squabbling over their allegiance to a teacher—as if by following Paul, they were more righteous than their friends who followed Apollos. Whether they knew it or not, the Corinthians had lost sight of the most important point of all—that is, Jesus—and had turned their focus completely on themselves.
That’s what pride does. It turns all of our attention inward.
For adult-me, self-pity is the most common form of pride. When I feel left out by a group of friends, the sadness that creeps up isn’t just sadness at the rejection; it’s also a prideful entitlement, which shouts, I should have been invited! Pride can hide in our allegiances—to particular brands, particular books, particular ways of eating, thinking, or voting. Rigid loyalty to anything other than Christ should alert us to destructive pride hiding beneath the surface.
Paul criticizes the Corinthians for falling victim to that distraction, and he doesn’t mince words. He calls them babies! He says they’re acting like typical, worldly people. And I wonder, Am I really all that different from them?
Perhaps my cheerleading story is a silly example, but I think it applies. When it comes to Christianity, what am I holding onto that is secondary to the gospel of Christ? Do I take pride that I’m a part of a certain Bible study, small group, or online devotion series? Do I feel hurt to be left off of a specific worship team? Do I have allegiance to a certain writer, church community, or social-justice mission?
Those things are all well and good. As Paul says, they might be part of the house we’re building, but they will never be the foundation. The gospel is never Jesus and—it’s only Jesus. When it comes to our faith, Paul calls us to let go of everything that’s not Him.
We are not typical; we are temples. The Spirit of God lives in us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). And as such, we need no ornaments. We need no special brands. No special invitations. No special groups or labels. No allegiances to a specific preacher. The foundation is Jesus. Anything else can stay or go; only our pride tells us otherwise.
Claire Gibson is a writer whose work has been featured in publications including The Washington Post and Entrepreneur Magazine among many others. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Patrick, their son, Sam, and their dog, Winnie. Her debut novel, Beyond the Point, will be published next year.