ENVY & RIVALRY AMONG CHRISTIANS
“…and most of the brethren have been made confident in the Lord because of my imprisonment, and are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of partisanship, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice.” (Phil 1: 14-18)
So there’s nothing new about the phenomena of “envy” and “rivalry” among those who “preach Christ.” It’s not surprising, because we do tend to feel “envy” and “rivalry” most strongly not toward outsiders, but toward our own. Already in the time of St. Paul these insidious phenomena reared their ugly heads in the Christian community at Rome, where he was imprisoned. There, other preachers envied his popularity, and undermined it in their public sermons, while St. Paul was incarcerated. But the great Apostle to the Gentiles did not feel particularly bothered, or threatened, by the sinful ambitions of others who proclaimed Christ. No, he rejoiced in “every way” that the name of the Lord was spread. Because St. Paul focused on the glory of God, rather than his own.
And that’s the answer to “envy” and “rivalry,” if I am tempted to direct it toward others, or if it is directed toward me: Focus on the one-and-only glory of God. In practical terms, that means, re-connect with God and with your own “vocation,” whatever that may be. God’s unifying grace helps me not be distracted by harmful comparisons or preoccupations with others, whatever they may be doing, or how they may be doing it, whether sincerely or otherwise. Lord, let us do whatever we’re doing “out of love” for You, – and in You, for one another. “A new commandment I give to you," He says to us, "that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13: 34-35)