This is a hard one, don’t you think? In our increasingly contentious society and world, to consider that a sign of the kin-dom is that the community has the same mind might be a bit of an overreach. Yet here is the call from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. And we’re still in chapter 1! In fact, this is the first call the Apostle gives us in this letter, so he at least thinks it is important. Check the preaching notes for a more complete discussion of what the implications of this idea might be.
But let’s not mute the high calling of agreement by saying it is something less than what it is. This isn’t a live and let live approach, or an indication that nothing really matters as long as we’re nice to each other. There is more here. More gospel, more truth, more invitation than we might realize. But there is also a clear prioritizing of approach and understanding. What Paul argues is that the community needs to take a higher place than we might think. In the USA, we sometimes overvalue the individual, and some branches of the Christian faith say that it is all about me and Jesus. Paul argues for something else than that. Yes, of course, the individual is important, but so is the church, so is the community of faith. We are in this together. Again and again, the gospel indicates that we are not in this alone, that we are made to work this out together; we are meant to be reconciled; we are meant to be in relationship with God and with neighbor. If one of our prime values is the building up of the body, then we approach differences and disagreements with a clear goal toward reconciliation. We want to preserve the community and not simply be right. This influences how we argue, or how we resolve differences or varieties of interpretations of scripture or applications of the gospel in our lives.
If last week we celebrated our abundance, this week we give thanks for our relationships. We can celebrate the life of the community, in fellowship, in learning together and serving together. We rejoice in our reach, which is always greater together than separately. There is an African proverb that says if you want to go fast go alone; but if you want to go far, then go together. We are in this for the long haul, all the way to the kin-dom of God. And along the way, we live by kin-dom rules, we show kin-dom values, we rejoice in kin-dom priorities, which sometimes means I set aside my personal preferences for the good of the whole. But more often than not, we realize that my personal good is fulfilled by the good of the whole community.
So, we sing of the church and the joy that we have in communion and fellowship. We pray for the healing of broken relationships and misunderstandings so that our witness can be stronger. We give thanks for our leaders and teachers and pillars who have sacrificed much to help us be the church we are. And we continually look out for ways to be open to invite and include those who are not yet a part of the fellowship of the church. We live hand in hand inside but with an outward focus and hope. We are making disciples of Jesus Christ, and there is always room for more.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.