The Greatest Scandal of Christianity is Our Divisions

Our humble, faithful submission to the One Triune God is the essence of the Kingdom of God.

The division that exists and that keeps expanding among Christians, is a true scandal to the world. There is no other word for it: it is a scandal. This scandal is not new, of course, but in these times it is one of the greatest causes of the ever-increasing numbers of those who identify themselves as “Nones”, meaning that they no longer follow or even believe in religion. That these divisions are often angry and even hateful, and condemnatory, makes this scandal even worse. Division is the spirit of the one who is opposed to God.

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In 1 Cor 1:10-13, Paul writes: “I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, 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 about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you is saying, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” These words ought to sting every Christian’s conscience, for this scandal of rivalry remains so visibly evident today. Should we be surprised, then, that the world itself is so divided? Might the divisions of Christianity be the very reason why the world has not yet turned to Christ?

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We see Jesus’ prayer for our unity in the presence of the disciples in John’s Gospel, chapter 17:20-26: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be ONE, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be ONE, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be BROUGHT TO PERFECTION AS ONE, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.”

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The radical Christian understanding about God is that “God Is Love” (1 Jn 4:8). Love is not just something God does, it is WHO GOD IS. To understand this is to understand the Holy Trinity. The very being of God is a living, unique, unity between the Lover (the Father), the Beloved (the Son), and the Love that they share (the Holy Spirit). This unity is what we proclaim in our Christian creed when we say, “We believe in one God.” As John tells us in Jn 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.” The Son is the very nature and face of the Father revealed to us in Jesus Christ. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). After Jesus’ Ascension back to the Father, the Holy Spirit is sent and descends upon the Apostles to encourage and to inspire them to teach the world about God’s love for us. This is how we know that God’s love remains with us through His Holy Spirit. The Trinity reveals the unity that God desires to share with the world in and through us.

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As the Trinity is one in love, so we are to be. How can we challenge the world to become one with God who is the very essence of love itself, when we are so divided and so often bear so little of love for one another? We, as Christians, are challenged by the Gospel, by God himself in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to reflect on, and to practice more diligently, this same unity of love that we have been commissioned to bring to our everyday world: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit…(Mt 28:19). There is only one Kingdom of God. It is our humble, faithful submission to the One Triune God (who is love) that is the very essence of the Kingdom of God.

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