Connections 05.31.2020: Unity

1 Corinthians 12:1-13

If you’re on social media, what does your feed look like right now? Do all of your friends and followers post similar sentiments about politics, the pandemic, and matters of faith? Or are you seeing a range of ideas and opinions?

If you’re like me, your social media feed (or your newspaper or news station or personal conversation with someone else) is filled with words and images from a wide variety of people who take a wide variety of stances on relevant issues. And if you’re like me, sometimes these stances can seem confrontational and antagonistic, as if daring anyone to think differently.

There are experts who say that the United States of America has never been more polarized than we are right now. I’m not sure I believe that, considering our rocky history. But it’s absolutely clear that we aren’t all on the same page, on the same team, or even focusing on the same overall purpose. It’s hard to fathom the concept of unity when we see and experience—and perhaps cause—so much division.

What’s especially sad and difficult is when division creeps into the church. When that happens, each side (and there may be several) claims that they are following God’s lead. If that’s the case, we may wonder why God is causing so much confusion and telling people so many conflicting things.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul uses a lot of words writing about the topic of unity within the church. He fully acknowledges people’s varying gifts, strengths, interests, and ideas: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (12:4-7). It is wonderful that we are different. But we lose our purpose when we forget that our differences should work well together “for the common good.” We lose our focus when we forget that we serve the same God.

Later, in chapter 14, Paul writes about respecting and listening to each other as fellow siblings in the faith, and he insists that “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (v. 33). So when believers experience tense division and disagreement, we can be sure that the cause is not God. The cause is our human tendency to want to be right and to distrust anyone who thinks differently than we do.

Because of how different we are, it’s not easy to be united. But this is what Jesus calls us, his followers, to do. We are “one body” together with Christ.

Discussion

  • Where do you see the most evidence of division among people in your life?
  • What are the biggest factors that keep these people from finding a way to unite?
  • What makes it so hard for a group of very different people to find “the common good”?
  • Why is it important to remember that we have the same Lord, the same God, the same Spirit? How can knowing this help us be better listeners and more productive members of a group of believers?

Sources: “Political Polarization,” Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/topics/political-polarization/; Gary W. Gallagher, “Think the US is more polarized than ever? You don’t know history,” The Conversation, February 14, 2020, https://theconversation.com/think-the-us-is-more-polarized-than-ever-you-dont-know-history-131600.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.

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