ʺFor in the Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves of free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.ʺ 1 Corinthians 12: 13
At the outset here, let me say that this article is an appeal to all Christians. It is an appeal rooted in hope and in the Scriptures. It is, in its own way, an earnest prayer.
When Paul wrote the above words to the Christian community at Corinth, he did so to explain Christ’s relationship with believers in verse 12. Then, in verse 13 he applied the same metaphor to the Church. He is saying that by baptism all, despite the diversity of cultures and languages, or ethnicities, or social ranking, are part of the same organism, the Church. The Church was growing and it was no longer a mere parochial entity tied to one region or one language. Paul is telling us, inspired by the Spirit, that the life and message of Jesus Christ did away with those human created borders and the accidental differences of language, culture, ethnicity and social ranking. He was giving the world, and the new believers, an entirely new vision of reality. It was a vision arising from divine wisdom, transcending all the limitations of human ʺwisdoms.ʺ Though there may have been hints of other kinds of divisions, they were nothing like the human rationalized divisions that separate Christians from one another today.
The ever expanding divisions in the Church today are the opposite of God’s desire and intent. God’s nature, as we see in the Gospels, in the Acts of the Apostles and in the epistles of the New Testament, is to unite all humanity into one. In God’s mind there is no difference between men and women, Greeks or Jews, slave or free. They are all His children, all of His one family. It is humankind that has created these divisions among us and these divisions defy the truth of the Gospel. It is our human pride that desires to contrast and compare ourselves to others, that causes us to fall into the false ideals of competition and the need to be Number One, to be seen as better than others, or more worthy than ʺthem.ʺ The divisions in Christ’s Church today are the biggest reason why the Kingdom of God has not yet come. Because we still bend to the human desire to compete with one another, we continue to decrease the Church’s power to be a unifying force for God and the common good in the world, because we are in defiance of the Divine Will to be united on the One Body of Christ.
We must ask ourselves, both those in the leadership of the Church, and the people in the pews, Is this what God wants of his Church? Does God want us be so divided? Does God want us competing for souls among ourselves, in His name? Is God disappointed in us that we do not see ourselves, ʺAs a body [that] is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ?ʺ Is our divisiveness what God wants? Or is it really more what we want? It seems that Paul, writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is quite clear here. We are to see ourselves as one body, though we are diverse in the ways that the body’s parts are diverse, we are one body in Christ.
Let us in the Christian Church stop dividing and competing with one another on human terms. Let us unite, rather, on God’s terms. We do not have to do the same things, or worship in the same exact ways, any more than a hand can do the same things as a foot, but we must see ourselves, through the grace of our baptisms, as members of the same body in Christ Jesus. It is our mutual calling to honor Christ above all, and to preach Christ above all. Let us see ourselves as one body. As members of the same body, let us share Christ with the hungry and needy world, not as this denomination or that, but as Christians who see themselves as one body in Christ. Let us stop seeing ourselves as divided and in competition with one another and let us start to dialogue, to come together in one body united in Christ Jesus through our baptisms in the name of the One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then, now, and forever. Jesus, after all, did not preach a divided message. God’s kingdom is not, nor will it ever be, a divided kingdom. Let us remember that, ʺIf a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.ʺ (Mark 3: 25) Let us find more and more ways to pray together. To use an old aphorism: ʺThe family that prays together, stays together.ʺSKM: below-content placeholder