On Sunday morning in worship we continued in our current sermon series “Deep Living in a Shallow Culture” as we studied the way the Apostle Paul addresses the church in the city of Corinth on the topic of quarrels and divisions.
Disagreements and potential divisions are an issue for any group of people. Even the most like-minded of gatherings will have differences of opinion, relational challenges and disagreements. The church is no different from families, work teams, nations, or political parties in that regard. But the Apostle Paul tells the church that we should be very different from other gatherings in the way we engage our disagreements because we are followers of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ chose the way of the cross. To be a Jesus follower means choosing to follow Jesus to the cross. The cross is a place of self-sacrificing love, a place of obedience to the Father, a place of dying to self.
Jesus came as the Messiah, and everybody thought, “I know what it means to be the Messiah. It means power and victory. It means success and the dazzling ability to control and overwhelm your enemies.” But Jesus taught a way of humbling ourselves. The way of self-sacrificing love. You want to live? Then die to yourself. You want to get ahead? Go last. You want to become great? Serve others.
Paul teaches the church that to follow Jesus means looking at conflicts and disagreements differently than others do.
We know how the world would engage disagreement. Our shallow culture teaches us that when you find yourself in a disagreement, you advocate for your side. You dismiss the other as thoughtless or ill-informed. You find allegiances for your perspective and work to prove your point. That’s the easy way of division.
But Paul teaches the church that, if we are the people of God, we will look at many things and many situations differently from those around us, and this is true when it comes to division and disagreements.
It is not that the issues we disagree on do not matter; of course they do. They matter deeply to us and we often feel passionately about them. But Paul points the church to the example of the cross in our seasons of disagreement. The flourishing, Jesus-centered life is not going to come by imitating our peers or the habits of the culture in which we live when we have conflict.
Our work is to be imitators of Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for the church. Our work is to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, to listen to those in the church who disagree with us, and to find a way to remain unified in Jesus Christ, even when every impulse in us is calling us to fight for our way and insist that we are right.
It is much easier emotionally and relationally to live in shallow places of division than with a deep unity in Christ. But Christ is not divided, and there is nothing easy about the way of the cross.