By Derek Weber
So, why “Somos del Señor”? Why not just “We Belong to Christ”? That’s what most will think and most will use as we go through this series, let’s be honest. What are we trying to prove by titling the series in Spanish? Won’t it sound inauthentic for most of our churches, most of our preachers to stumble over the pronunciation of a language we don’t speak? Or worse, isn’t it paternal, or colonial, even cultural appropriation perhaps?
Paul leaps right into the issue in our text for this week. The issue is division. The issue is factionalism. The issue is us and them, left and right, good guys and bad guys. The issue is that the church has begun to reflect the larger society around it. Rather than living as an example of what community is supposed to be, we have shifted into the same sorts of line drawing and team choosing that the rest of our culture revels in. “Now I appeal to you,” Paul pleads, stop it! Stop being a mirror and start being a lighthouse. Stop trying to blend in and start standing out, standing apart.
Then he does a little diagnosis (well, after sharing how he knows what he knows). It is hard to tell why he felt the need to include his source in the letter. Perhaps he was trying to add some authenticity to his account. One hopes it didn’t cause problems for Chloe or her people!
The problem that Paul identifies has to do with allegiances. To whom do we belong? On the one hand, it seems simple. Of course, we belong to Christ; that’s how we would answer the question if we were asked. But Paul isn’t interested in what we say; he’s interested in what we do, how we live. And how the church in Corinth is living right now does not reflect the allegiance to Christ and Christ’s Lordship.
Paul is asking for a profound humility to govern the behaviors of the body of Christ followers. He even diminishes his actions with his “senior moment” of whom he has baptized. It’s not about me, he declares to them. It’s about him, the Christ who calls Paul and who calls the community of faith in Corinth. So, set aside the other allegiances and cling to the one who gives life. Be like him. Be like him in his humility. Be like him in his suffering. Be like him in his death.
Paul introduces the cross in this text, but there will be more to say about it next week. For now, it is introduced as a call to humility. The cross is foolishness to the world, Paul declares. Foolish in its shame. Foolish in its embarrassment. Who would claim the cross as a symbol of anything, let alone victory? The cross is not just the worst way to die, it is the lowest, reserved for the wretched refuse. The cross is the empire’s means of taking out the garbage. Who would claim the cross?
We do, says Paul. We do because we see the power of God at work. “God took what is low and despised in the world . . .” That’s coming later; this is a preview. For now, Paul says, the cross is the power of God, for those of us being saved. Being saved. Those of us. There is a process here, and a commonality. We’re in this together. Let’s not be choosing sides; let’s not be building barriers, creating an us and a them. Let’s have the same mind and the same purpose.
That’s the difficulty isn’t it? We don’t have the same mind; we don’t agree on everything. Sometimes we wonder if we agree on anything. Wrestling with what Paul means here is necessary for preaching this text, especially in the current climate. Would the leader who celebrates the unity within diversity of the gifts of the Spirit really be asking the church to think only one thing? Or is the emphasis not on a particular theology or interpretation, but on a mission that loves God and loves neighbor, period? The singularity Paul calls for is vital.
There is an odd moment in the text. We can clearly understand why Paul condemns the “I belong to Paul” or “I belong to Apollos” or “I belong to Cephas.” But what’s wrong with the “I belong to Christ”? Isn’t that the whole idea? Why does he seem to claim that those touting the “I belong to Christ” slogan are just as divisive as the others?
Perhaps it comes down to the pronoun. I belong to Christ. Paul is about community, about being a body. His “yous” are almost always “all y’alls.” The complaint is about the “in your face” attitude that separates, rather than the humility that invites and welcomes. “We belong to Christ” is an invitational phrase.
Somos del Señor is not trying to live into something that we are not. Rather, it is an invitation to live into what we could become. The body of Christ is multilingual; the body of Christ is multihued; the body of Christ is multigenerational and multigendered. Perhaps a little work in your community might find other languages to translate the series title into. Are there those of African heritage in your community? Of Asian heritage? Of European or Latin American heritage? How can you move a little closer to being of one mind and one purpose with those for whom English is a second or even third language? How can we invite the body to be what it is called by Christ to be? We belong together to Christ. Together, we belong to Christ. Somos del Señor.