I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
(1 Corinthians 1:10-17 ESV)
In Athens, young men, at the age of eighteen, would begin to prepare for war and for life. For a two year period, these men would be led by three “fathers” who would take them through the rituals that would train them to go to war, and stand up for one another.
At the end of that two-year period, they would come together to take an oath, in full armor, and clasping the hand of an older man – an older Athenian who had gone through the same process, who had walked them through training. They would stand together and recite this oath:
“I will never bring reproach upon my hallowed arms, nor will I desert the comrade at whose side I stand. But I will defend our alters and our hearths, singlehanded or supported by many. My native land I will not leave a diminished heritage but one greater and better than when I received it. I will obey whoever is in authority and submit to the established laws and all others which the people shall harmoniously enact. If anyone tries to overthrow the constitution or disobey it, I will not permit him, but will come to its defense, singlehanded or with the support of all.”
When I came across this, I thought immediately about this passage of scripture, and I thought about the local church. I thought, “Wow isn’t this how the church should be? “I will not leave a diminished heritage but one greater and better than when I received it.” Is the church in a better place today than when we first received it? Or have we so alienated ourselves that we have become irrelevant to the world around us? The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, was addressing some key issues of division within the context of their body of believers. Paul’s overarching message to them is to unite in Christ!
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10, ESV)
Paul’s desire was that the people would all agree and that there would be no divisions among them. “But rather that we would be united in the same mind and the same judgement.” A good translation from that is that they would be united in the same thoughts and the same opinions (or direction).
If you are familiar with C.S. Lewis then you are aware that he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and numerous other works. He also penned a book that was recently made into a play, “The Screwtape Letters.” The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon, Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle is mentoring his nephew in securing the condemnation of a man only know as “the Patient”. In one of the letters Uncle Demon advises that if you cannot keep “the Patient” out of church then you must take real fun at working up hatred between the Christians on matters that are all purely indifferent.
The devil will work his way into a church by doing exactly that, dividing us, US the body of Jesus Christ, on purely indifferent things. Things that do not matter. This is what was happening in the church of Corinth.
The Apostle Paul understood that division had taken place on two fronts in the church at Corinth, in their thoughts and opinions.
Paul states that they are to have the “same mind” or thoughts.
Isn’t that where division begins? It begins inside of us. First, it’s a little whisper:
“Truly, you won’t die if you eat of the fruit.”
“Oh David, you certainly cannot be satisfied with the little that you have, you must have Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba.”
“Oh Gehazi, servant of Elisha, you deserve that gold from Naaman!”
“You deserve that raise, you have worked harder than that slacker.”
“That person didn’t speak to you, they MUST be rude. How dare they!”
“You know, that person said or did something to me one time that offended me! I could never forgive them.”
That’s were it leads…see that? It moves from internal thoughts in the mind to opinions. From opinions we see words and actions. From our actions to our overall direction. All the sudden, a disagreement about “purely indifferent things” has created a rift in the body of Christ. Now the body, which Christ has born through himself, has divided.
These “indifferent matters” separate the body just enough to keep them from being productive.
Larry Osborne states in his book, Sticky Teams, that “genuine and biblical unity is found in the midst of real and passionate differences that we set aside in the recognition that the differences we have are nowhere as important as the King we serve.” It’s not that unity means that everyone is devoid of thoughts and opinions, it is the fact that the people of God must keep their focus on the Kingdom work that God has for them. That means that Christ and His Kingdom has to be the focal point for The Church, not personal preferences or matters of indifference.
We must be, constantly, a body of believers who strive to be united in Christ seeking to accomplish His purposes for His Will.