Paul Wants Unity Among Christians First

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5

For some reason I’ll not understand, I woke up this morning thinking about this play on words–we Americans, we might live in the “United States”, but we’re not very united on much of anything.

In my study of Paul, I’ve been reading about how much Paul wanted his small groups he called ekklesia to be united in spirit. He wrote so much about that. About the hands and feet not battling each other, or the eyes and ears not trying to dominate each other in the body of Jesus.

Now he was writing to groups of maybe 10-15. They weren’t going to gather 500 in a house. Besides, if they did, the Romans would have pounced immediately.

But even these groups were in danger of splitting. A new person would come to town. Charismatic, with new ideas. Called Paul “out of it.”

People would gather for a holy meal in a somewhat small room (at least by contemporary American standards), yet would have all manner of problems–the wealthy wanting to go first, separating into smaller sub-groups according to wealth or status of one sort or another.

I remember talking with a woman about church many years ago. “Oh, I could never go to your church. The people are too wealth. They’d never accept me.”

But even more–instead of gathering to worship and praise God and care for one another, we criticize and gossip and break into groups. Leaders stop leading caring for other things. Or just their own status.

We think it’s freedom to go our own way. Do our own thing as we said in the late 60s never thinking about how that would go on to corrupt our society.

Freedom, Paul says, is the ability to serve others. Don’t use freedom for self-indulgence. Use it to bring others into the group. To care for those in the group. To worship God with prayer and song and teaching.

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