During the Twilight phenomena a friendly rivalry developed among the fans of the series. Devotees were divided in their preference between Edward Cullen and Jacob Black. Team Edward admired the icy cool of their favorite while Team Jacob preferred the wild strength of theirs. To love the story was to choose a hero.
Likewise, readers of the Bible can find themselves choosing favorites between the apostles. Neither Peter nor Paul are the heroes of ‘the story’, but their stories are so well recorded that we can find kinship with them—at least one of them.
Some feel fondness towards Peter because they can relate to his passion and impulsivity. Like him, they wear their hearts on their sleeves and are quick to express their love for Jesus. These people constitute Team Peter. Across the way are those who feel an affinity for Paul. The Bible describes the apostle to the Gentiles as being thoughtful, deliberate, and determined. Those who bend in that direction are likely to admire him and enlist in Team Paul.
I have been in settings where these teams have lauded the attributes of their champion as though one was superior to the other. Neither side would say it outright, but the unspoken message was that they were members of the better team. As though, between passion and perseverance, one is best.
Spoken aloud it sounds kind of silly, which it is.
Peter and Paul did not consider themselves captains of opposing teams. They did not view themselves as the embodiment of an ideal type. They knew what they were—sinners saved by grace, and in this, they were the same. They knew, all too well, that there was nothing inherently superior about their particular type of person. This awareness made it possible to defer to, and honor, one another. Paul sought Peter out to confirm his calling and Peter proclaimed Paul’s writings to be inspired. Neither type trumped the other.
We need to learn from these men! Churches are full of people and consequently full of different types. This is as God intends. The body is made of many parts that are designed to compliment one another. However, in spite of this being taught to us by the apostles, we are prone to elevate our type to a place of prominence.
The intellectual type views studiousness as the preeminent expression of faith. The effusive type would put religious enthusiasms in the top spot. The servant type reserves first place for acts of mercy. The mystical type gives preeminence to the contemplative lifestyle. The sober type elevates disciplined behavior above all else, and so on, and so forth. There are many types and each of them is susceptible to pride.
Pride persuades us that our passions reflect God’s priorities, that our strengths mirror God’s first love. This is the essence of self-righteousness. We congratulate ourselves for being the ideal type while disdaining the lesser types that surround us. I’m probably overstating the problem, but there is a problem. There is also an opportunity. If we would assume the same humility of Peter and Paul and defer to one another’s strengths we would enjoy less insecurity and more vitality.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:4–7
Essential health is collective health. The ideal is to have every type fulfilling their function in the church for the common good. This is God’s will. There are many types of people and they are all positively necessary.