Breast-feeding the Church

Tuesday Re-mix –

My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.  What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”…Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.  You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?  1 Corinthians 1:11-12; 3:1-4

The milk/solid food metaphor was apparently popular in the early church.  Paul used it.  The writer of Hebrews used it.  Peter used it.  Some metaphors just work so well, they “catch on” and make the rounds, I suppose.  It strikes me that this metaphor probably conjured up different images for the early church than it does for us today.  When we think of babies drinking milk today, we may have images of bottles or sippy cups going through our minds.  But in the days of the early church, I suspect the images were more of babies breast-feeding or perhaps of baby animals being fed by their mother.  It was the very natural process of the mother digesting the solid food for the babies and then passing it on to them through her milk.  Bottom line: being on a milk diet was the most helpless, immature form of existence.

Another interesting thing about this metaphor is that, when you or I read it in scripture, we probably NEVER apply it to ourselves.  Who would?  We read Paul’s words to the church in Corinth and we think, “My, my…those must have been some pathetic Christians!”  And then we feel a very slight tinge of self-satisfaction, pleased with our own advanced level of Christian maturity.  After all, we certainly do not need anyone digesting the scripture for us and spoon-feeding it to us, do we?  Um…well, not all that often anyway, right?

But Paul’s words to the Corinthian church cut right through all that self-righteousness: For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Paul nails us all, doesn’t he?  The church never looks more like a bunch of baby birds waiting for their mommy to digest their food for them and feed them than when we are quarreling with each other.  We think and talk as if we are mature Christians, knowledgeable about scripture and walking with Christ, but our own broken relationships and fights and divisions betray us.  And why are we so surprised?  We spend more time asking our pastors and favorite authors and conference speakers to digest scripture for us and spoon-feed us than we spend in the scriptures ourselves.  What is the most common complaint I hear from church members about their pastor?  “He isn’t feeding me.”  And this often comes from the same person(s) at the very heart of that church’s conflict.  Surprise!

But it does not have to be that way.  Scripture gives us SO MUCH guidance about our relationships with each other and about the Spirit of God abiding in each of us so as to produce unity among believers, we need only immerse ourselves in it and allow our spirits to be “cleansed by the washing with water through the Word”.  As we mature in Christ, so our relationships look more and more holy as well; as our relationships look more and more holy, we ready ourselves for more and more “solid food” spiritually.  It is a cycle, i.e., a spiraling in one direction.  We need only choose which direction we want the spiral to go!

Church, we have work to do on the relationships in our lives.  Scripture will teach us.  I’ll see you Sunday!  Bring a bib.  😉

© Blake Coffee
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One response to “Breast-feeding the Church”

  1. Great words, Blake! I think I’ll share this in my morning email with our church members. Thank you, as always, for your thoughtfulness and clarity.
    God’s blessings on you today and always!

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