10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ 13Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? - 1 Corinthians 1:10-13
The truth is that churches are broken. That shouldn’t come as a surprise because Christians are broken people. Usually, it is when Christians don’t think they are broken that churches manifest brokenness most clearly.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul is writing to a broken church. Ultimately, the brokenness of the church is alright. When Christians are aware of their brokenness they tend to rely upon God. Paul tells us that God “is the source of our life in Christ, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption….” (1 Cor. 1:30). That is a pretty good place to be: broken and filled with the life of Christ.
The problem for most churches comes when we notice other people’s brokenness and not our own. Apparently, that was happening in Corinth. The members of the church were segregating into factions. One might follow Apollos with the implicit idea that those who do not follow Apollos are missing out. Now, you probably don’t know much about Apollos or Cephas or how they differ from Paul. So, rarely will you find Christians today saying they belong to Apollos.
The problem is that doesn’t always mean we aren’t part of the factions shown in Corinth.
One faction in Corinth is very apparent in our churches. The apostle Paul says that a group in the church in Corinth said, “I belong to Christ.” That sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? It is a good thing if it is said in brokenness. The problem is that too often it is said with an awareness of other peoples’ brokenness rather than our own. So, the subtext is, “I belong to Christ but I’m not sure you do.”
When we disagree about a bit of theology or practice with someone, we are pretty quick to question if “those” people are really Christians at all. I guess it is plausible that “those people” might not be Christian. But the moment we make that a part of our own definition, then we are just part of the quarrels of a broken church… or, as Paul puts it, we are part of dividing Christ.
The answer for a broken church is the grace found in the cross of Jesus Christ. Grace in the cross for us and for them. When we say it like that, the “them” gets swallowed up in grace to become part of us. And, when that happens, the broken church is able to say, “We belong to Christ undivided.”
Jesus, thank you for your grace that has grasped me in your embrace and is making me whole. Thank you that your grace is meant not just for me but for every person around me. Show me how to be part of your embrace for a broken world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.