Brothers and sisters, I appeal to you, 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. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that 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? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas, beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else). For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to proclaim the Gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the Cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
In the young Corinthian Christian community there were divisions (shocking, I know, since we are way past any divisions in our church life). In the passage that we will hear this Sunday, Saint Paul addresses one of such divisions. Paul wasn't the only apostle who preached Jesus Christ to the Corinthians and baptized them. There were also others - Apollos and Cephas.
Interestingly enough, among Paul, Apollos, and Cephas there were no disagreements. They all preached the same Christ, and baptized in the same Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But there were disagreements and divisions among people who received baptism from these three apostles. It seems that people who were baptized by Paul, formed a little band of Paul's converts. Those who were baptized by Apollos - band of Apollos' converts. And the same for Cephas. And then there were those who (rightly) called themselves Christ's, but looked down at and argued with the other three bands, and claimed to be the only true believers.
Paul asks them three rhetorical questions, "Has Christ been divided?" No, but people who claim to be Christians are divided. "Was Paul crucified for you?" No, but people who became Christians brought their divisive affiliations into the faith. "Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" The answer is obvious...
These divisions in the first century Corinth are as silly as the divisions in the twenty first century US (or insert any other region with multiple Orthodox jurisdictions). We cling to our ethnic roots, and identify our Christian faith based on these roots, not on Christ. By letting our Russian, Greek, Serbian, Antiochian, or whatever it may be, ethnicity define us, we divide, separate ourselves from the Orthodox Christian Faith.
Now, let me be very clear here - there is nothing wrong with liking and being proud of our ethnicity or nationality. It is what it is. We didn't choose it, we were born into it. It is a fact of life. But we do choose Christ, and once we have chosen Him, He defines us - His love for us, His teaching, His sacrifice. All other identifiers make way for Him. He is number one. In Him we are united to the rest of His flock. In our ethnicity or nationality we are often divided from others because there are many ethnicities and nationalities, by default they are divisive. But there is only one Christ, by default we are all united in Him.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest