January 22, 2016
Matthew 4:12-23
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 4-9

Bridging the Gap
Epiphany 3 | OT 3

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Beth Herrinton-Hodge
In this week’s epistle text, Paul responds to reports of factionalism in the Corinthian congregation by appealing for unity and pleading for them to cease quarreling over what are essentially side issues in the greater scheme of things: “...by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, [I ask] that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you... that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” In the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Beth Herrinton-Hodge notes that this is a timely message for our society as well. While our politics have always been characterized by division and acrimony, polarization in our country seems at an all-time high as Donald Trump assumes the nation’s highest office. Indeed, when Time magazine selected Trump as their “2016 Person of the Year,” their cover photo dubbed him “President of the Divided States of America” -- a reality that appeared to reach a crescendo with a verbal spat between Trump and Rep. John Lewis over the legitimacy of Trump’s electoral victory. It’s a striking contrast with Barack Obama’s soaring 2004 rhetoric that maintained “there are not red states or blue states, but the United States of America” -- something the outgoing president underlined in his farewell address last week when he specifically warned of threats to national unity. But as Beth observes, it’s not just in our society where division is rampant -- factionalism and bickering are endemic in the church as well. Paul asks us as Christians to bridge the gap -- both amongst ourselves, and between ourselves and the mainstream culture -- and as Beth points out, the best way to do that is to keep in mind who is our ultimate leader. Here’s a preview:


Bridging the Gap
by Beth Herrinton-Hodge
1 Corinthians 1:10-18

In his letter to the Christ-followers of Corinth, Paul posed the question “Has Christ been divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:13). This came in the midst of his appeal for unity and agreement, for them to be of “the same mind and the same purpose” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Evidently there was a gap among the people, where such phrases like “I belong to Paul” or “I belong to Apollos” or “I belong to Cephas” or “I belong to Christ” were being tossed about (1 Corinthians 1:11). Their scattered allegiances undermined the gospel they were called to proclaim.

In the same way, our divided political allegiances undermine the peace, unity, and purity of our nation as well as our churches. On a weekend when the peaceful transition of power should mark a high point in our democratic republic, when the events of a presidential inauguration should unite us as a country, we see and hear of rampant division across our land. Such divisions are tearing us apart.

Even within the church, we divide between “us” and “them,” evangelical and progressive, majority and minority races. At the same time, like Paul, we yearn for unity. Like the Corinthian church, we are called to unite as the body of Christ. This is not a lock-step unity in which each of us thinks or acts the same. It is not a unity found in a single, elected leader or a single political party. No, we seek (and find) unity in complete loyalty to our Lord, Jesus Christ. From this loyalty, our actions emerge.

In a recent blog post titled “Election Reflections: Bridging the Gap,” acclaimed author Philip Yancey wrote: “Today, both parties push toward the extremes, in opposite directions. And here is where Christians come in. Oddly enough, we can mind the gap by withholding complete loyalty from either party. ‘Politics is the church’s worst problem,’ warned the French sociologist Jacques Ellul. ‘It is her constant temptation, the occasion of her greatest disasters, the trap continually set for her by the prince of this world.’ Christians have a divided loyalty, committed to helping our society thrive while giving ultimate loyalty to the kingdom of God. We are resident aliens, taking guidance not from a party platform but from the life Jesus modeled for us. Sometimes that means crossing the gap, rather than widening it.”
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