Deuteronomy 30: 15-20; 1 Corinthians 3: 12-19
One of today’s passages from the book of Corinthians, Paul writes his letter to the people who were distracted and mired down by misdirected priorities, especially for those who were in the midst of quarrels over who belonged to which church leader--—“I follow Apollos” or “I follow Paul.” While Paul was writing, of course, to the people of the first-century church, division and misdirected priorities, are not unfamiliar to us today in the twenty-first century.
Paul in his letter regards such quarreling or divisions over preferences to be a mark of immaturity in faith. Choosing up sides over preferences indicates that a person is still on milk and not ready for solid food, the real stuff of the gospel, by which Paul means, “We are like unspiritual people; we are of the flesh; and we are propelled by self-serving desire, not God.”
Paul ends his appeal by saying that we are God’s servants, coworkers singed on together. As “coworkers” in the ministry of Christ, our task is to exhibit and enact God’s deep love for God’s people and the world, that is, to get our minds off ourselves and our biases and our particular passions enough, so that we may situate ourselves in the big picture of God’s work, the holy one who makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good, and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.
If we act in immature ways and of the flesh, propelled by our own preferences, views, our convictions, biases, or our settled certitudes, we simply imitate the society around us that does not know who God is.
I believe the big crisis in the church today is that we have forgotten how we remain “unified” and recognize others as “co-workers.” What is worse is that we may live in the church but act like everyone else who does not know who God is. Yes, it matters how we live together in the church. Yet, more importantly, today, it matters how we present ourselves and churches in our context in faithful ways.
While the world still operates by wealth, money, control, policies, and military power, we are called to live and act differently in order to prove that those do not make us safe and do not make us happy. This calling is not easy, but is essential, like swimming upstream against ordinary social practices.
While we are too busy with choosing sides and drawing lines and setting limits, probably, God does not care about those things because God still desires the wholeness and unity of God’s people. Although we may have individual and personal experiences of God, God cannot be a private God.
For a church divided, whether in first-century Corinth or contemporary churches in the States, our calling is to be co-worker with those who think differently for the sake of the world that God loves. Our calling is to go against our culture of vicious cycle—greed, hate, and violence. And our calling is for being “unified,” not uniformity, but unity in diversity on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God.