If you go to Beijing, you’ll find the body of Chairman Mao nicely entombed. And if you go to Moscow, you’ll find Lenin’s body on display, although he’s not as popular as he once was. Many seeming larger than life figures, both living and dead, have been elevated to seemingly divine status. Back when Paul was writing this letter to the Corinthians, his audience knew all about personality cults. The Roman Emperors were experts at cultivating them.
1. It’s Not About Me
And the truth is, personalities can mess things up and get in the way of unity. It doesn’t have to be the pastor; it could be any number of people in the life of the church. This stuff often happens because we’re all different in our thinking, our interests, and more. And whatever you want to say about the Corinthian church, you can say this: it was diverse. And not only was it diverse, but like a couple of siblings, it could fight with the best of them. Kathleen Norris writes:
The Corinthians remind me of my niece and nephew in their younger days when they fought ferociously over things both large and small. One afternoon as they raged over the question of who would sit in the front seat as Mom drove them home on the daily commute, I asked, “Is there anything you two won’t fight about?” The shouting stopped as both children looked at me. Beaming, they happily declared, “No!” and resumed their squabbling. Of course they love each other, and always have. (Christian Century, January 15, 2008, p. 23).
2. Unity in Our Diversity
3. Rooted in the Cross
Ultimately, it has to do with our witness to the Gospel. If we want people to hear the message of the love of Jesus, then we need to think about how people perceive us. Paul says, it’s ultimately not about me or my eloquence, because if it’s about me then the cross is emptied of its power.
The point I want to make has to do with the nature of power, and how in these stories it’s a boy and a girl, nearing puberty, who save the day. I won’t go into the story, but the question arises – why children? Donna Freitas and Jason King offer an answer. They try to reinterpret the books from a Christian perspective, and they say that in the books it’s not that children are especially innocent that they are more capable of being compassionate than adults, it’s instead because they have little access to power that they’re more likely to rely on love (Donna Freitas and Jason King, Killing the Imposter God, Jossey Bass, 2007, p. 93).
Be like little children, Jesus says to us. Paul says to us, in your dealings with one another; follow the way of the cross. Then the gospel will have power to change lives and we’ll find unity in the midst of our diversity.