“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)
This verse really sets the stage for a lot of what’s to come in First Corinthians, because Paul is addressing Christians in Corinth who were experiencing disunity with one another. He goes on to talk about after this how different people are saying, “Well, I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos” or “I follow Cephas” or “I follow Christ,” like Jesus had just become one option among those who people were following. Some people were saying, “Well, I’m with Paul over here” or “I’m with Cephas over here” or “I’m with Apollos over there,” or some people were saying, “I’m with Christ over here.”
May we be kept from trying to be united by traditions, teachers, or anything else when the only one who can truly unite us is Jesus Christ.
No, this is not a recipe for unity in the church. This is a recipe for disunity in the church, and it can happen so easily, whether it’s particular teachers or particular traditions or particular preferences in the church that people can rally around, and all of a sudden you have different camps who like this or prefer that or want things to look this way or that way. All of a sudden, you have all kinds of division, where God has designed the church to be unified around Jesus alone, focused on Jesus alone, longing for Jesus alone. Lay aside traditions. Lay aside preferences. How do we exalt Jesus together and to work for that kind of unity, as opposed to just being one of many different factors in what might unify the church?
This is where we’re reminded, from the very beginning of this letter, that from the first century… We can sometimes have a glamorized view of the early church, like “Oh, if we could just get things back to the way the early church was.” Early church had some significant problems, so we don’t want to necessarily get back to all the things the early church had. But at the same time, we do want to be encouraged that from the very beginning of Christianity, there’s been struggle for unity, so we shouldn’t be surprised that there’s struggle for unity in our churches, for example, today.
That doesn’t mean we sit back content with that. We press in, just like Paul is calling the church at Corinth, to press in to Christ, to focus on Christ, to make sure we identify areas where we are looking to teachers or traditions or any number of things to try to unite us when, in reality, the only one who can unite us is Jesus.
God, we pray together right now for the unity of your church. We pray specifically for the churches that we’re a part of. I remember praying this in Psalm 133 as well, but just compelled to pray it again and again and again, that you would help us to unify around Jesus, that Jesus would be the center of our affections, that you would help us to hold tightly to Jesus and loosely to other teachers, loosely to traditions, loosely to our preferences, that you would help us to yield in all kinds of ways on that level, but not to yield at all when it comes to affection for Jesus. May love for you and trust in you and the worship of you be central among us.
God, I think about even the political landscape in the country I’m a part of, and how the church is so divided over different candidates and different issues, and along the way the name of Jesus, it’s just missed and minimized. God, may it not be so. Help your church to exalt the name of Jesus, we pray, in every way. May our focus, may our affection be fixed on Jesus. We pray that would be evident to the world around us. We pray for a unity in Christ in each of our churches. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
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