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Is Christ divided?

26 January 2011


In my previous post I was speaking of the Church’s lack of unity and how that hinders us in our mission to the world. People will not be drawn to any church where there is disunity reflected in many competing agendas. If there are people all going in different directions with no common mission which they share together, people will be put off. Conversely, people are attracted to a place where there is a common vision, where people sacrifice for the shared goals.

This kind of unity must be worked for, chosen, purposefully undertaken. I do not believe that this kind of unity simply happens. This kind of unity must be a decision of the will. This is precisely why it is a command.

Near the end of the passage (1Corinthians 1:10-18) Paul reiterates that his priority was to preach the gospel. His calling was to be one who proclaimed the cross of Christ as the central solution to the sin problem of the human race. His priority was preaching the Gospel.

It occurs to me that if our church was more centered in that priority, we would probably not so easily get caught up in the petty dissensions which ultimately take our eyes off of Jesus. We would be proclaiming the Good news more effectively to our community and growing a congregation.

Our mission in the church is not to make ourselves comfortable. The church is not here to meet every little felt need that we think we have. We are not here to massage the saints. Not here just to maintain a building. God has called us to a higher calling. He has given us a task which is big enough to pull any church together if they would take it seriously. We are here to proclaim the Gospel and reach others for Jesus Christ. That was Paul’s priority. It should be ours as well. This is one important reason why we need to maintain our unity. Because people need the Lord, we must be one.

Remember that Jesus said that if we were one the world would believe that the Father sent His Son (John 17:21). Unity among Christians testifies to the world that Jesus came because of the Father’s love for them. Unity is essential in proclaiming the Gospel. Unity is essential in carrying out the priority of the church. This is why it is so important that we work at, pray for, and come together as one body of in Christ.

We must yield together to the Spirit of God. Acts 4:31-32a reads, “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”

Let’s pray that this place and we in it will shaken.

Let’s seek Him until we are filled with His Spirit.

Let’s center on Jesus until we speak the word of God with boldness.

Then we will be of one heart and soul.

May God give us a fresh filling of His Spirit that we may exhibit the true unity of the Spirit.

There is a hymn that goes:“In Christ there is no East or West, In Him no South or North, But one great fellowship of love, Throughout the whole wide earth.”  – That’s the kind of unity St. Paul is talking about, as he urges the church at Corinth to unity. That’s the “fellowship of love” that our Lord Jesus taught, when he gave the “New Commandment” at the Last Supper: “I give you a new commandment: That you love one another as I have loved you.” That’s the vision of John the Divine, as he sees “the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven.” It’s the vision of St. Augustine, in his theological masterpiece, “The City of God.” Of Francis, as he kissed the leper. Of St. Ignatius, as he set about his prayer exercises. It is the vision of which we have a foretaste in the Eucharist, as all are gathered, all are welcomed, all are marked by “the Peace of God.” It is also impossible to achieve without the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

As Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives, looking out over Jerusalem, in his final days, he saw the vision, and how far we were from living it out, and he wept. The Gospel writers record his weeping, saying: “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you. How often I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks, but you were unwilling — you would not come together, in love.”

We are a stiff-necked people, just as the Old Testament prophets said we were. We are a stiff-necked people within the church. Old grudges die hard, bitterness over long ago slights can cling to our hearts like grim death, old differences of opinion can continue to divide us for years. So many things divide us and we cling stubbornly to our arguments, because we are bound and determined that we are right.

Wouldn’t it feel marvelous to just be rid of all that?

The Corinthian church was at odds over some of the same sorts of things, and St. Paul was trying very hard to persuade them to give up the fights, to be united in Christ, in one mind and purpose.

In one of his writings former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, told a story, from the early wisdom literature of the church. It seems that when Jesus arrived in heaven after the Ascension, those who were waiting for him asked him how he had left things, how the world was faring. He reported that he had left everything in the hands of the disciples. The angels, knowing all too well how human beings can mishandle things, asked him what sort of backup plan he had set up. “None,” he said. “It’s up to them, or it will not happen.”

It is up to us. There is no backup plan. There is no one who will come along, like a referee, and separate us as we duke it out.

We are called to seek unity, to seek to honor one another, to love one another, to seek the mind of Christ and to be united in it, in the peace of Christ. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit that proceeds from God the Father will make us all of one mind, and one heart.

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