First Corinthians is a great book to me. I kind of think Paul has read my mail in the writing of it. Different failures in my life to be sure, but my list of things that need to be confronted would find him writing the same way to me personally, no doubt about that. So I'm wide open to hearing what he said to the Corinthian believers.
For example, in chapter 1 verse 10 he says that we, as christians, are not to be "divided" or "separated" from one another. [That word "divided" is used of the veil in the Temple being ripped apart.] But, rather, he advocates, we are to think the same thing, even having the same opinion about things. Well, I don't know how that could be true of me and ANYBODY. That isn't even true in my marriage. What's going on here? I need some help with this. You think!!
I realize that when I became a christian, that I, who had been separated from God, have now entered into a real, personal and close relationship with Him that is both lasting and genuine. All by His grace. I also realize that when THAT happened, I ALSO entered into a a real, personal and close relationship with everyone else that ALSO knows Him. That's by His grace too. I had been separated from Him, but now am tight with Him. I had been fragmented from them, but now am tight with them. And that's a fact of His grace, not just wishful thinking.
So it is no surprise that in Ephesians 4:3 Paul tells us to "preserve" or "maintain" the unity that ALREADY exists with all other believers by virtue of our grace relationship with Him. We are not called upon to CREATE unity with other christians, but "preserve" what has already been created by His grace.
So, knowing this, how AM I to do it? How do I do my part in maintaining unity? How DO I learn to "Be of the same mind"? What's that all about?
Well, it will certainly take understanding the ground or basis of our unity. And that basis of unity isn't found in our system of beliefs or our particular set of doctrines. It isn't thinking the same thing about THOSE kinds of things. It is, rather, in what is found described by Paul in chapter 1 verse 17, "For Christ sent me NOT to baptize, [There has to be a doctrine in there somewhere.] but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, [There has to be a system of beliefs in there somewhere.] lest THE CROSS OF CHRIST should be made of none effect." There IS a REAL basis of unity already established in that alone. So we are to endeavor to keep HIM and the message of the cross as our ground or basis for unity.
The thing that makes me one with other christians is not anything other than the person of Christ Himself and His work on the Cross on our behalf.
Why is this so important? Because whatever unites us will ultimate divide us. If we're united around who baptized us, [or maybe even how] we will separate from those who were baptized by someone else. [That was the Corinthian problem that Paul was confronting you see.]
You name anything that people can unite around today.
Type of praise
Style of preaching
View of inerrancy
Women in ministry
Name of denomination
Gifts of the Spirit
Views on Eschatology
Wearing ties in the pulpit
Use of tobacco or alcohol
Being bald headed. [I just slipped that one in for fun.]
Take any single one of these and form a group around it and relate/fellowship ONLY with those who are in agreement with you about it and you will find unity destroyed.
But can we think differently about such things in the above list or believe differently and love each other even while disagreeing? Of Course we can!! My wife and I have been doing it for over fifty years. Even in matters theological. She is a theologian in her own right and we don't agree on all things theological. It's called being yourself and requiring nothing but loving respect and acceptance without judgment or condemnation about where you are in your thinking. All this is because of and based on how we are loved and accepted by the Father because of Christ. This, while in a covenant commitment called marriage. It's WONDERFUL.
The New Covenant relationship all true believers have to Christ and each other can be lived out with differences also. Maybe meeting differently, sharing differently, enjoying different styles of music, different kinds of preaching, whatever. Being different in so many areas, but REFUSING to CUT OFF relationally from any other christian BECAUSE we have our differences.
You know what "cutting off" looks like! Cutting off is EVIDENCED by disrespect, hatred, self centeredness, judgment, condemnation and shaming. [All the things NOT found present in the love that Christ has for us.]
Maybe we've forgotten what "Unity" looks like! [That's the point of this particular post remember.] Unity is EVIDENCED by genuine love where there is a lack of judgment or condemnation or hatefulness or shaming regardless of our differences and an acceptance of any believer as a valued person. [All of those negative things are obviously NOT FOUND present in the love that Christ has for us] It is THAT kind of love that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
OK...I admit...I'm a dreamer. But I'll dream on if you don't mind.