Divisions are nothing new
We humans love to choose sides, to know where we belong. It might be innocuous, like our support for sports teams, or a preference for Ford or Chevy or Dodge trucks. Sometimes the choices are weighty and fraught with peril, like where to sit in the middle school cafeteria, or who we identify ourselves with by our choices of clothing.
It is hardly even necessary to note the divisiveness of our current political climate and how quickly we devolve into “Pro-Trump” vs. “Never Trump”, Democrat vs. Republican, climate change is a hoax vs. the green deal, etc. Sadly, these divisions are a real threat to our civic life.
The quarrelsome church in Corinth was no different, apparently. In several places in his letters to Corinth, Paul addresses various divisions and the problems they cause, and in Sunday’s reading from the first chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians he writes: “Each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided?” (I Cor. 1:12-13, click here to read the full passage.)
Paul found this need to identify with this or that group within the church quite destructive, so he jumped on it right away. Why so dangerous? Because we humans are quick to get more caught up in what divides us than in what unites us and, further, we tend to multiply the importance of the things we think define us over against the other. People will seize on any distinction and make it seem a matter of life and death!
To get beyond that sort of party game-playing, whether in a nation or a church, requires constant effort and diligence. For Paul, the antidote is to remember that it is Christ who has saved us, it is in His name that we are Baptized and that, in the final analysis, we are here to serve Him, so that even what we do in service to one another is, ultimately, in service to Jesus.
But Paul also points to the importance of the simple steps of maintaining relationships with one another. Paul often adds personal touches to his letters like greetings and encouragements to various individuals. A smile, a warm greeting, a kind word are of immeasurable value in maintaining the Body of Christ. Never lose sight of these little things!
I am thankful that St. John’s, at least in my time here, is not a church marked by party politics. I pray that together, we will keep it so!
This column appeared in the January 26, 2020 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.