Sunday sermon on St Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:10-18):
Brethren, I beseech you, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all say the same thing, and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be perfectly united in one mind and one purpose. For I have been informed about you, my brethren, by those of the house of Chloe, that there are quarrels among you. Now this is what I mean: each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ."
Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in Paul's name? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Caius, lest anyone should say that you were baptized in my name. I baptized also the household of Stephanas. I am not aware of having baptized anyone else. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News, not with the skill of eloquence, lest the Cross of Christ be made useless. 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 Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
There is nothing worse than having divisions among people - in church or in society or in family. And St Paul warns us today against dissensions. He was writing to the Corinthian Christian community, which he established, but which had problems following what he taught about the love and unity of Christ.
They divided themselves into factions, some called themselves disciples of Paul, some - disciples of Apollos, who also preached the Gospel of Christ among them, while others called themselves disciples of Christ, trying to be the most original. All of this led to fights and arguments and disagreements about who was better. The church in Corinth was so young, yet already divided.
Writing to them to stop this childish behavior, St Paul also warns us to avoid divisions - on the Church-wide level and on the parish level and on the personal level. Christ cannot be divided, but disunity among the faithful leads to them losing membership in the Body of Christ, which is the Church.
St Paul calls factions and cliques in the Church childish because they are evidence of immaturity. In fact, any division among people is childish and immature. It’s a sign of selfishness. And selfishness in turn is a delusion where I think that I know better than others what to do and what to say.
Factions and cliques among the faithful are also signs of lack of transparency and accountability. Accountability, first of all, to Christ, and then to each other. This all ties in to selfishness - acting selfishly, we think that there is no need to be accountable to anyone ... because we are under the illusion that we know better.
A community without accountability has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, that’s why St Paul warns so strongly against dissensions. But, he says, be perfectly united in one mind and one purpose. One mind and one purpose.
Christians can have only one mind - the mind of Christ, as in selfless, if not sacrificial, love for each other, and one purpose - preaching and witnessing to Christ in this world. There can be no other purpose for a church, it’s not money and fundraising, it’s not maintenance of things that will fall apart eventually anyway, it’s not preservation of a culture.
Don’t get me wrong, all these things are not unimportant, but they cannot be, they are not the singular purpose of our existence as a Christian community, as a church, as a family.
“One mind and one purpose” does not mean that there shouldn't be normal and healthy diversity of views among us, nor does it mean that there should be a total agreement on every minute detail of faith and life. Rather, the one mind and one purpose that we share in perfect unity are a common attitude and common commitment to mutual love, which includes complete transparency and accountability to each other.
Divisions happen when we fail to be in one mind of Christ, working for one purpose of living and witnessing to Jesus Christ as our only Lord and Savior.
Let us, as St Paul encourages us today, be perfectly united in this one mind and for one purpose that our witness to each other and to the world be not of divisions, but of unity and love in Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory now and forever.