Commentary by Walter Albritton


June 4, 2006


Living in Unity in the Community of Faith


1 Corinthians 1:10-17


Key Verse: Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. – 1 Corinthians 1:10


          Divisiveness is normal among human beings. Our sinful nature produces conflict and chaos. No matter how hard we try, it seems impossible for a group of people to pull in the same direction over the long haul. Somehow Satan finds a way to do his dirty work and unity is lost.

          We know this is true in the “world.” But we expect more from the church. The church is composed of God’s own people. They know that God desires unity; his will is made very clear in the Scriptures. Yet repeatedly conflict arises and wounds or even destroys churches.

          When this happens some people give up on the church and never come back. They expected more of the church. And they should. If unity cannot be found in the church, where can it be found?

          As ugly as divisiveness is, it is not difficult to explain. Sin is the reason. Sin causes even church people to “want their own way” and that attitude robs the church of harmony. Isaiah nailed it: “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own” (53:6).

          Discord in the church is not a new thing, of course. Paul wrote to the Corinthians to help them with several problems. The first problem he addressed was internal conflict. Christ had become less important than whether one was a disciple of Paul, Apollos or Peter. The preacher had become more important than the gospel he preached. Paul sternly warned the Corinthian Christians that they belonged to Christ, not to him or Apollos or Peter.

          Paul did not insist that they ignore their diversity. The church included a wide range of people with different backgrounds and different ideas about things. There can be unity in diversity. When there is a common desire to honor Christ, people can put aside their differences and unit behind a great goal. But this can only happen when many strong-willed people decide that harmony is more important than having their own way.

          John Wesley left us a great example. He championed the idea of offering your hand to others when it was obvious that their hearts were beating as one. Wesley’s words are worth remembering: “If your heart is as my heart, then give me your hand.”

Equally helpful are the words that have persuaded many Christians to embrace one another in unity: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” The gospel is so precious that it behooves us to forget our differences and use our energy to put “first things first.”

On this Pentecost Sunday we do well to reflect on the unity of the believers on that blessed day when the church was born. Surely it is true that the Holy Spirit would not have come had they not been “all together in one place.”

We can also expect that the Holy Spirit is ready to come upon us in great power when we gather in unity as the community of faith. Imagine what transforming power might fall upon our churches were we to assemble with one heart, with no discord, seeking the Father’s face!

The pathway to unity is no mystery. The gospel makes it clear that the way to unity is love. To overcome conflict we must be willing to “love one another.” We must desire Christ’s way more than our own. Ego must go; humility must come in. Otherwise the cross of Christ will be “emptied of its power,” at least in the fellowship where love does not reign supreme.

For love to reign supreme in the church, back-stabbing, gossiping, and hatred must be thrown out of the church. Feelings of superiority must be given up. Conflict always arises when anyone claims that “my experience of God (or my theology or my doctrine) is better than yours.”

On the other hand, harmony thrives when people live together in love and mutual respect, looking upon others as better than ourselves. When I was a teenager the motto of the MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) was “Christ Above All.” When that becomes the motto of the community of faith, divisiveness will give way to unity, and the gates of hell cannot withstand the power God releases in his church.

So, brothers and sisters, let us be in agreement, with no conflict, so that God can use our unity to accomplish his will for our church!

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