Why St. Paul wrote I Corinthians:
The church was divided. Some were lining up behind Paul, and others behind Peter. Some said, “We’re with Apollos,” and other said, “We follow Christ.”
It was a mess, and everyone was pointing fingers at somebody else. So Chloe and her people (was that a fifth group?) sent a letter from Corinth to St. Paul asking for help.
Why did they send Paul a letter? I think it is the same reason any of us would have sent that letter. No one likes to see a church divided. Church divisions are toxic. They split up communities. They split up families. They split up friends and, most importantly, they undermine the body of Christ and the mission we share.
So, when Paul received Chloe’s letter, he wasted no time in sending a response, a response that was straight-forward and to the point.
“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.” (I Corinthians 1:10)
Our calling is to be one, one body in Christ, and Paul kept coming back to that theme.
“The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:15 f, 17; 12:12)
The body of Christ and its unity was important to Paul. It was also important to our Lord Jesus, who prayed, “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (John 17.11)
Christ prayed that we might be one. So when our actions lead to divisions within the church, we should be concerned. Those divisions are not of Christ, but of the evil one, and unfortunately, his strategies are tried and true. Satan has been using the strategy of divide and conquer, to undermine the unity of the church and its mission dating right back to day one.
So, how do we resist him? The first thing to realize is that our brothers and sisters in Christ are not the enemy. They may be misguided. They may be misinformed, but they are not an enemy, to be conquered or driven out from among us. That is not how we are called to deal with division in the church.
Instead of dividing the church into us and them, we are called to pray for the church and its unity. We are called to pray for one another and love one another, especially when we disagree. For that is the only way we will have any hope of working together toward unity.
Sometimes, that work will involve ongoing conversations until a consensus is reached. Sometimes, it will involve helping one another to learn from our mistakes as we seek reconciliation, and sometimes it will mean helping one grow in our understanding of the faith, hope, and love to which we are called.
These are the sort of things that build up the body of Christ and strengthen the mission we share. So, when we find ourselves at odds, may God grant that we remember these things and do them for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.