I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
1 Corinthians 1:10
Paul always expresses great concern about the possibility of a split in the church. In a similar passage in his letter to the Philippians he says, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord, and of one mind,” (Philippians 2:1-2 RSV). In writing to the church at Ephesus, he exhorted the elders there to be careful to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (Ephesians 4:3 RSV).
Church unity is a very important matter. Paul puts it first in the list of problems he has to deal with here at Corinth. Many of the other problems were flowing out of this division within the congregation. Here in Verse 10 he briefly shows us the ground of unity, and the nature of unity in a church. The ground, of course, is the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “I appeal to you,” he says, “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Their relationship to Christ was the unifying factor of the church. There is no other name big enough, great enough, glorious enough, and powerful enough to gather everybody together, despite the diversity of viewpoint and the differences of background or status in life, than the name of Jesus. That is why the apostle appeals to it. He recognizes that we share a common life if we have come to Christ; we are brothers and sisters because we have his life in us. He is the ground, always, of unity. And more than that, we have a responsibility to obey him, to follow his Lordship. Therefore, the only basis upon which you can get Christians to agree is by setting before them the Person of the Lord Jesus.
He describes the nature of unity this way, “that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” That does not mean that everybody has to think alike. With all the differences among us, it is impossible to get people to think alike. The church is never called to having everybody think exactly alike. Yet the apostle says they are to be of united in mind. How can that be? The letter to the Philippians helps us here. Paul says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:5). He then goes on to describe for us the mind of Christ, which is a willingness to give up rights and personal privileges and give in and take a lower place. Then comes that great Christological passage where he describes how Christ, “…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8 RSV)
That is the mind Paul is talking about. When everybody decides to put the things of Christ first, and is willing to suffer loss that the honor and glory of Christ might be advanced, that is what brings harmony in a congregation. That is always the unifying factor in a church, and that is the mind we should have, the mind that does not consider itself the most important thing.
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Thank you, Father, for your word. Let it do its great work of cutting down and eliminating from my life the things in which I take pride and which separate me from others. Help me to judge these in the light of the cross, and to walk before you in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Are we confusing equality with authentic unity in Christ? Do we need to re-think our personal responsibility for building walls of separation and disunity, choosing rather to be peacemakers?