Summary: Paul calls the church to unity - because we share in one baptism, one body and one Spirit.
Paul writes in Colossians 1:19-20: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
God’s vision, God’s great plan for humanity, is to bring reconciliation – and we don’t have to look far to see how desperately we need it. We see it on a national and international scale on our TV screens every single day. We see a need for reconciliation even closer to home within and between communities in our own town; within and between families, neighbours, work colleagues, churches. And we see it right here in this church family. We are a divided and broken people, and yet God’s desire is that we are united in Christ Jesus. It’s the reason Jesus came to die on a Roman cross. It’s the reason the Holy Spirit was sent: to bring together every one of us with God, and with each another.
This was Paul’s message to the church in Corinth, and it’s Paul’s message to us today. Let’s listen to 1 Corinthians 12:12-29:
Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-29
The Church at Corinth was an ugly place. 1 Corinthians 1 speaks of how some church members pledged their allegiance to one church leader, whilst others pledged their allegiance to another. “I follow Paul,” some cried. “I follow Apollos,” others cried, “I follow Cephas cries another group.” 1 Corinthians 3 speaks of jealousy, quarrelling and divisions. 1 Corinthians 4 speaks of arrogance, pride and boasting. 1 Corinthians 5 speaks of sexual immorality and an unwillingness for the church to deal with the sinner. 1 Corinthians 9 tells of the church’s tendency to be backbiters of Paul’s ministry. 1 Corinthians 11 tells of how the church couldn’t even share in the meal of communion without people falling out and refusing to share their food. 1 Corinthians 12 talks about the conflict between those who had the gift of tongues and those with other gifts. And 1 Corinthians 15 and 16 talk about heresies creeping into church life – bad teaching about the resurrection that went to the core of their faith.
Let’s be honest, if we lived in Corinth – many of us wouldn't bother going to this church
Now I don’t believe we are on a par with the church in Corinth, BUT we do need to be aware of the differences among us that threaten to become divisions. We have people who are well to do, and we have people who are hard up. We have people who speak in tongues, and people who most definitely don’t want to speak in tongues. We have old people, and young people. We’ve got conservative evangelical Christians, and we’ve got liberal Christians, and we’ve got plenty of people who haven’t got the foggiest what those terms mean. We’ve got ex-Anglicans, ex-Baptists, ex-Methodists, ex-Pentecostals and even a few born-and-bred Reformed folk like me. We’ve got infant baptists and adult baptists; people who think we should marry same sex couples and people who think we most definitely shouldn’t. We have people who are very vocal and get their voice heard, and we have people who are much quieter who don’t. We’ve got people who like to pray out loud, and people who like to pray silently. We’ve got people who like new worship songs, and people who like traditional hymns. We’ve got people who love the drums and people who hate the drums. We’ve got people who think we need to be doing more to reach young families, and people who think we should be doing more for the elderly. We’ve got people who think the crèche area enables parents of babies and toddlers to engage in worship, and we’ve got people who think it’s a real distraction to worship.
It is natural that we think differently. God has made each and every one of us unique. But these differences must not become divisions. We need to see the bigger picture – that’s what Paul calls the Corinthians to, and that’s what he calls us to.
It’s a bit like Google Maps on the internet. If you type in the church’s address, you can see a photo of the church from Wickersley Road. You can see the cars in the car park, the cross on top, the Ducklings nursery sign – all up close. If you use your mouse to zoom out, you then see a satellite image of the church from above – its roof and grounds and some of its immediate neighbours, and then if you zoom out again you get a good chunk of Herringthorpe, then Rotherham, then South Yorkshire, then Northern England, then Britain, then Europe and then eventually the whole world as it looks from space. Now when we focus solely on our opinions, on what we want, we’re zoomed all the way in to our front door – and God calls us to step back, to zoom out, to see the bigger picture.