Peace in the Church
by Rev Jacky Quarmby 18 March 2022
In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul is responding to letters that he had received, complaining about division among the believers. It is clear that parties and factions had formed around the names of different evangelists. Some were saying, "I follow Paul", others, "I follow Apollos", others "I follow Cephas (or Peter)".
In doing this, church members were simply following the patterns of the society in which they lived. Corinth was a very cosmopolitan city housing both Jews and Greeks and the Greeks were especially fond of Philosophy. In the city there were all different schools of philosophy, each having its own leader, around which groups of students and like-minded thinkers would gather. It seems that the same pattern was emerging in the church, with little groups forming around each of the main evangelists.
But Paul is quick to point out the errors of their ways. "Was Paul crucified for you?", he asks. "Were you baptized in the name of Paul?" Of course not. There is one Jesus Christ, who died for us all. We follow Jesus - not Paul, not Peter - but Jesus. Our teachers are a gift from God to lead us to Christ, but not to take his place. It is the cross of Christ that has power, not words of human wisdom.
Today our Christian denominations - Methodist, URC, Anglican, Baptist, Roman Catholic - can be a focus of division, just as the evangelists and their disciples were. But they needn't be. A very wise person once said,
In matters essential - unity
In matters non-essential - liberty
In all things - charity
The church is called to be one and called to express that oneness in the quality of their relationships with each other. A key word, as far as the New Testament is concerned, is the Greek work "Koinonia" - which occurs 46 times and describes a strong, committed relationship between people, based on their love for Jesus and their desire to follow him. Paul has a lot to say in his letters about the nature of this relationship. He writes often of “one-anotherness” as a way of expressing this love and commitment to each other. Paul writes: be devoted to one another; honour one another; live in harmony with one another; accept one another; serve one another in love; carry one another's burdens; encourage one another; forgive one another. To live like this is to discover our oneness in Christ.
Jesus prayed for all believers saying, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them, even as you have loved me.” (John 17: 23)
This year in Holy Week, Churches Together in Littleover are organising a series of evening reflections based at the different churches. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to unite with our fellow Christians for worship and prayer, as we journey with Jesus to Calvary. I hope you will join us.
Song: Let us build a house
YouTube shows adverts which may not be appropriate to the video we have selected.
Father of all who live in the Spirit,
you have brought unity through your Son Jesus Christ:
help all who profess his name to show in their lives,
in their worship, and their evangelism
that oneness which springs from the truth
as it is found in Jesus,
and fill your church with the desire
both to seek and find that unity
throughout the world; in his name. Amen.