1 Corinthians 1:1-17; 1 Kings 12:32-13:34; Joel 1
It’s a meme that never grows old. This is the one that reminds us that, “You had one job” and the picture accompanying the meme is something done wrong. It could be a shirt with a picture of Africa on it, labeled “Asia.” Perhaps it’s a “Batman” backpack with a picture of Superman on it. One of my favorites is the package labeled “Hot Dog Buns” that’s filled with Hamburger buns. If you look up images under that phrase, you’ll find a lot of other mistakes. Misspellings on the road are favorites too. We laugh at these mistakes because we believe, rightly, that people who are supposed to be focused on one thing, should be able to do that one thing and do it correctly.
Paul reminded the Corinthians that they had one job, which was to be the body of Christ, united in sharing the good news of Jesus. What had happened instead was that people began aligning with the leaders who had been important to them. I can imagine some of the conversations: “I heard you came to Christ and Lucius baptized you. That’s great…but I was baptized by Paul.” “Oh, you’re a Christian now. A group of us are gathering around to listen to Apollos. Want to join us?” Some might talk of their allegiance to Peter, while others would turn their noses up while claiming to follow Christ. Paul knew that he had one job: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1 Corinthians 1:17)
Paul remembered baptizing a few of the Corinthians when they began following Jesus. His goal, his one job, though, was to proclaim the gospel to the people in Corinth. The fact that the Athenians had called the gospel he preached foolishness at the Areopagus compelled him to proclaim it with even more vigor. He wasn’t trying to sway people with amazing words or logical arguments, he preached the simple gospel of Jesus Christ where he talked about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Greeks tended to think the body was evil, so this idea of the resurrection didn’t make sense in their philosophy, but Paul, rather than trying to sugar coat it, proclaimed the bodily resurrection of Jesus as fact. And many came to Christ. Once people came to Christ, he expected them to do their one job as the body of Christ. Since they weren’t doing that and there were divisions in the church, Paul reminded them of their job.
I wonder what Paul would say if he could see the current state of unity in the Church today. Without making digs at any denomination, we have different governing structures, we have different methods of baptism, and different understandings of the meaning of baptism, we have different understandings of the bread and the wine, we have different understandings of how we should serve God, and in all those differences, each one of us is wont to say, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” I didn’t even get into worship and music styles either! The key to walking with Christ is that none of us are right on everything, so we need to give grace to others. When it comes to unresolvable differences, we need to remember these words: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” It doesn’t matter which group we align ourselves with if we don’t identify ourselves first as “followers of Christ.” (And, I don’t care how you phrase that.) There are people in all denominations who are following that denomination and not Christ. I will ha
ve charity towards them, but I will seek, with that charity, or grace, to show them the need to align with Jesus first. My faith is built on the truth that Jesus was born of a virgin, walked on earth as fully God and fully man, was crucified to pay the penalty for our sins, and rose from the dead. Believe that with me and we can work together to proclaim Christ.
Oh Lord, You prayed that we would be one. Let Your Church be one in proclaiming the gospel.