My brothers and sisters, Chloe’s people have me some information about you, that you’re fighting with each other. What I mean is this: that each one of you says, ‘I belong to Paul.’ ‘I belong to Apollos,’ ‘I belong to Cephas,’ ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized in Paul’s name?
1 Corinthians 1:11-13 (CEB)
Is good to know that Christians have always struggled in their life together. Sometimes we have idealistic views of those early days, all seem perfect, all of God’s people working together, if only we could go back to that “golden age!”
Reading through Paul’s letters quickly bring us back to reality. People are people, today or two thousand years ago, it is still people and all of us struggle to lives as one.
What struck me about this passage today was that the community was fragmented in “factions of faithfulness.” Each of them were claiming to be right, to be righteous, to be the heirs of the real message because of who had baptized them, who they identified with. People had chosen to “label” themselves in order to claim their identity in the right camp. They belonged to these camps but did they belong to Christ?
Today as God’s people we are tempted to label ourselves. There are so many issues, positions, and causes that it would be easy to align ourselves as a way of identity and belonging. It also makes it easier for us to know who we agree with (so that we can align with them) and who we disagree with (so that we can avoid them).
Can we hold positions, struggle with issues, and speak on behalf of causes without confusing those with our real identity as baptized people?
I know this is difficult teaching. It would be so much easier to draw the line and exclude those with whom we disagree. I sense though that the message of Jesus calls us to a primary identity of love in the world. This love is not the romantic/idealistic/superficial feeling that we are familiar with. Instead is the covenantal/difficult/deep affection of the Christian life.
Love then calls us to stop the infighting, engage each other as brothers and sisters, and work together for the life of the world. After all we were not baptized in the name of our causes, nor have our issues died for us, instead Christ lived, died, and was raised so that we as a diverse creation could become one once again.