saturday, unity of the church
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 and John 17:20-23
Nothing destroys unity like arrogance. Unity is based on the more-than-one coming together in mutual trust and purpose. Arrogance demands that the more-than-one group, whatever its make-up or identity, serve the purpose of the one, the self. True unity cannot happen where the seeds or fruit of arrogance abound.
Paul’s first letter to the young and troubled church of Corinth rings this bell for the first four full chapters. This young family of faith had not yet identified the dangerous disguises of arrogance and pride within their family or within their own hearts. Like Paul warns the church, beware of the subtle lie of pride. Its impact is always underestimated.
“Consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the LORD.””
Paul’s point in this memorable passage is often lost or mistaken. With wonderfully poetic and rhetorically brilliant language, Paul takes the concepts of “wise,” “noble,” “strong,” and “boastful” out of the hands of the church family. They do not belong there. They never do. Yet this immature family of believers in Jesus Christ fancied themselves all of these things. This of course led to a relaxed, pompous, myopic and self-absorbed perspective that always folds back in on itself. Pride always does.
But here is the twist: most examine the effects of pride in a selfish way, discussing only the harm that it inflicts on the person or their immediate relationships. Paul is not making this mistake. He has zoomed out to the whole family of the church. The Apostle is crystal clear: arrogant boasting in an individual church member poisons the unity of the church as a family.
See his emphasis above: “so that no one may boast before God.” His chief point of reference comes next: “But by His doing you are in Christ,” who has indeed become all the things you mistakenly understood were yours by right, by earning or by privilege.
My hope for these 50 days is that our prayers for the unity of the church become more personal and more desperate than every before. As the seconds roll by, the world’s view of the Body of Christ decays, partly because of the dis-unity of the church. This is undoubtedly connected to Jesus, which makes the gloom even darker. Our Savior prayed that all who believe in Him “may all be one” even as the Father and Son were one; that the church be “perfected in unity, so that the world may know” Jesus in truth.
Lord Jesus, may the depth of unity that You experience within the community of the God-head be realized in the members of Your Body, the church. Please heal us from selfish and arrogant boasting, position-grabbing, comparison and Christian narcissism. By the power of Your Spirit, grant us a new depth of humility, love, service and patience by which our unity will be strengthened and grounded anew. Let the unity of Your Church expand your glory in our city.