(1 Corinthians 1:10-17)
Our Lord Jesus Christ founded the Church to include all people, uniting everyone with the Triune God to enjoy His rich gifts. We also know that in the time of the Apostles, the first Christians were united and "were of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32). The Church is a Divine Organization, but there is also the human element. The Church is full of people, and with different people comes the potential for division. Sadly, there are some who have received the gift of baptism, but understand nothing of the Gospel. They bring their own willful thinking, and sow the seeds of schism within the Church. This can be observed even in St. Paul’s time, which he addressed in his First letter to the Church of Corinth: "It has been declared to me concerning you...that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul", or "I am of Apollo’s”, or "I am of Cephas"(ie Peter) or "I am of Christ” (verses 11-12).
Unfortunately, this factionalism can be seen throughout the history of the Church, even to our present day. What is even more tragic, is that there are clergy who are causing such divisions in the name of preserving Orthodoxy. Orthodox accusing other Orthodox of betraying the Faith, with these “Genuine Orthodox” accusing others of heresy and creating schism in the process. It becomes even more serious when such divisions reach the level of entire nations. For example, the Church hierarchy of one nation wishes to dominate the Orthodox Church of another nation. Such actions, with appeals to nationalism, ethnicity and geo-politics, are known as “ethnophyletism,” and have been condemned by Pan-Orthodox Synods.
This is why St. Paul was inspired to write words of caution to the divided Corinthian Church, and why his warnings have such lasting importance. He writes: "I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (verse 10). This plea, coming from the depths of the Holy Apostle’s heart and “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” is calling those who are alienated because of internal strife to honor the Name of Christ by their actions. As people who bear the Name of Christ as Christians, they (and we) should come together with unity of belief, and not shatter the Church into pieces. Our Lord came to bring us together in one body.
Let us examine more closely St. Paul’s words, in particular his words here: "you be perfectly Joined together in the same mind and the same judgment.” The origin of the Greek word “Κατηρτισμένοι" (perfectly joined together or reconnected) that St. Paul uses here is a medical term, and it is in the context of mending a dislocated or broken part of the body (due to a fall or blow). This word choice is deliberate, as the Holy Apostle is illustrating exactly what occurs when the evil of factionalism takes root. This all must stop! Just as we go to a doctor to mend broken or dislocated bones, so too must we re-connect with the body of Christ and the other members of the Church.
Additionally, the above passage speaks of “the same mind…” in our relation with others. The mind is the center of a person’s mental function. Opinions (or judgments) are the fruit of willful actions centered in the heart of a person. If some are guided by reason and others by passionate opinions, then no unity is possible. This is why St. Paul emphasizes with deep knowledge of the soul, that oneness of thought and mind is the path to union and harmony among us.
To help the Corinthians further understand the tragedy of what was happening (and continues to happen today), St. Paul asks the question: Is Christ divided?” (verse 13). We are all the body of Christ. When there is division and disunity, do we understand that we are harming the body of Christ, His Church? Will we leave the body of Christ broken?
May we all understand, my brothers and sisters, the terrible consequences of schism in the Church, and those who cause such ruptures in the body of Christ understand the harm they are doing. Let us make every effort, starting with ourselves, to sacrifice and strive to embrace the Church in unity. And like the first Christians, may we be together with one heart and one soul. Amen.