This week marks another transition of power in these United States. We come to this event with in the shadow of a disruptive election cycle and an emphasis on how divided we are as a people.
We begin this week remembering the work and words of Martin Luther King, Jr. during another time of deep divisions within our nations. The fault lines then, and even now, colored in black and white.
How interesting that the suggested scripture reading from the Epistles for Sunday, January 22, 2017 happens to be the passage from 1 Corinthians 1:10-18:
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…….
The church in Corinth was certainly a textbook case of rivalries and jealousies and disagreement. Oftentimes when this text is used it is framed within a local church conflict (a phenomena that is far too prevalent). However we know that divisions go well beyond our institutions of faith. We know that the language of division has been the common vocabulary in our civil discourse. We also know that the level of anger has been escalating in such a way that our divisions seem insurmountable.
There are those who are saying basically “Get over it. The election is decided and things will be done our way. Stop complaining and get on board.”
There are those who say equally boldly and loudly “Never! We will be the resistance.”
Another cycle will begin. Another round of stop government will unfold. The gap between one another will continue to widen. We know that the words spoken by Abraham Lincoln on June 16, 1858 are as true now as they were in those years just before the Civil War. In it he quoted the words from the Gospel of Mark: “a house divided against itself cannot stand”.
As we consider the words of the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth we can begin to get a template for a way to move forward, particularly for those of us of the Christian faith.
Paul is very clear that the “I belong” statements dividing the church at Corinth were unacceptable. Yet it must be human nature, for we continue to engage in this practice. “I am a conservative Christian, my values are the correct ones. The Bible tells me so.” “I am a Progressive Christian, my values are the correct ones. The Bible tells me so.” How long are we going to yell at each other and fail to look to Christ. I don’t mean the Jesus we have “created”. I mean the Jesus that makes us uncomfortable.
· The Jesus that was not all about our belief systems but was all about meeting people face to face in their deepest needs.
· The Jesus that didn’t worry about popularity contests or acquiring power and glory but who touched the untouchable and talked to the enemy.
· The Jesus that was publically humiliated and executed. For to talk about Jesus without the cross as a consequence of his compassionate loving existence on earth is to miss the point.
Jesus never “AGREED” with the oppression Rome placed on the people in his nation. Jesus never “AGREED” with the bias and hate the Judeans and Galileans placed on those who lived in the land mass between them – the Samaritans. Jesus never “AGREED” with a social system that debased women and the sick. Jesus never “AGREED” with the Temple authorities that abused their power and made concessions to the Roman Protectorate.
When you read the words of Paul it is important to go beyond those first words: 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”. The unity of mind and spirit is to be the mind and spirit of our Lord and Savior. We have his example about how to live. It is a costly example. It will not be popular. The task before us is to BE Christ in our nation and our communities, by our actions not our words. And in a time when we really do not hear one another we MUST show by the lives we live the words we mean.