1 Corinthians 7: (the apostle Paul writes) 17 However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything. 20 Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called. 21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever. 22 For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters. 24 In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.
A key issue Paul is addressing in this letter to the church in Corinth is the problem of division; Christians taking sides against one another or separating themselves along particular lines. In this passage Paul mentions circumcised Jews and uncircumcised Gentiles as well as masters and slaves. There were also rich and poor, men and women, educated and illiterate. All in one church community, bound together as one people in the name of Jesus Christ.
This kind of diversity was unheard of in Paul’s day, which made the church a peculiar community.
Humans have always had something of a tribal instinct, even in the church. Divisions among Christians often reflect the divisions in the society in which the church exists: racial divisions, socio-economic divisions, political divisions. Lately it seems there is a great chasm between politically progressive and conservative perspectives. We tend to live in our echo chambers, consorting with the like-minded. Ignoring or “calling out” those with views different from our own. Emphatically confessing other peoples’ sins while basking in the certainty of our own “right”-ness. Holding others in contempt, as many Christians do when confronted with the “other”, only serves to deepen the divide.
The church is called to be different.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” What does it look like to love those on the other side of the ideological divide? Jesus also taught in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Should we expect mercy and grace from the Lord when we withhold it from others? Maybe. Maybe not.
Lord Jesus teach us to love those who are different from us because it often doesn’t come naturally. And forgive us when we are so arrogant as to believe that the only conclusion possible for a thoughtful, faithful Christian – is our own. Amen.