The Telephone Game

January 29th, 2008 • Category: Variety Week
by Mark Shoup

Today’s scripture: I Corinthians 4:14-21 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Mark Shoup):

I have to admit something scandalous, something almost heretical in this age of fundamentalism and one-view-ism:

I don’t always agree with Paul.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I don’t know a lot about the scholarly nuances of the Bible, and though I would like to change this someday, I have never been to school to learn theology. So my opinion of Paul might very well be completely off base. But let me explain why I feel the way I do.

I sometimes feel that Paul and the early Church have forgotten the way Jesus loved — his gentle way with marginalized people, and how much love for humanity he needed to have to go through what he did for us.

In today’s scripture, Paul tells the people in Corinth that they should pattern their lives after him, since they have so few mentors. I think mentorship is a very important part of discipleship, but I worry that not asking people to pattern after Jesus himself is just asking for trouble.

Remember when you were a kid and you played the game where one person whispers a message to another, who in turn passes it to the next person in line? Remember how the message gets completely changed by the time it reaches the end of the line? That is what I worry about — that the message of Christ, so beautiful and life-giving, can be lost or garbled when people don’t seek him directly and instead look too much to their earthly leaders for guidance. Too many layers of opinion and interpretation can come between us and Jesus.

Now, I have no reason to believe that Paul meant for this to happen, as he does address earlier in his letter the dangers of sectarianism. But I worry that he is exhibiting the very arrogance he speaks out against at the end of the passage.

Is it wrong to disagree with Paul on certain issues? I guess that is a question everyone has to decide for themselves. All I know for sure is that you can’t go wrong by patterning your life after Jesus.

And you can take that to the bank!

Thought for the day: Mentors are useful — but is Jesus my ultimate pattern?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

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