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We can’t help but see the problems around us in what seems to be a broken, or least highly paralyzed, government. We face a myriad of challenges today: new technologies, nearly unfathomable cultural diversity, a globalized economy, and inadequate educational preparation of the young and already working. These forces contribute to a rapidly and constant changing social situation in which our institutions (including the church) seem to be flailing and failing in helping us to respond, adapt to and move into the world as it is today. This uncertainty leads to quarrels and divisions. Just look at the presidential primaries! It also produces anger, fear and retrenched absolute position-taking. Look at the Church in our country in how we’re predominantly responding not to current issues like sexuality, marriage and pluralism; but rather how we respond to those who don’t agree with us. What does it mean to be one in Christ? What does it mean for the Church today in our emerging world? For us today?
Our texts for this week retell the founding of the church in Corinth. It was a major metropolitan city in Greece, one of the principal economic and cultural cities of the ancient Roman Empire. Along with Ephesus, it was one of the most vibrant churches planted by the apostle Paul. And it too flailed and failed, struggling to live together for the gospel across its cultural diversity, socio-economic hierarchical differences, theological thinking and missional action.
In the beginning of his pastoral advice to the church in Corinth, Paul brings up the infighting over baptism. This was the vocabulary of dissension over the superiority of some disciples within the church as better than others. Supposedly related spiritual authority, this hurtful social stratification was also the recycling of entrenched ideas of superiority coming from personal wealth, family connections, cultural backgrounds and individual history. Paul writes to remind them that Christ is not one faction among many, that his gospel is what unites them and makes all things possible for each and all of them – a truth that seemed foolish in their world in which greatness was seen through the lenses of wealth, power, education, eloquent speaking and lineage.
Questions for Going Deeper: