Notes on 1 Corinthians:
A common life:
10) I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11) For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. 12) Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.”
In this passage Paul is concerned because he hears rumors of bickering from within the early church community, specifically the church in Corinth (a city of Greece under Roman Rule in 57 AD when Paul wrote the letter.) People were more concerned with allying themselves with one group or another. The church was still in it’s early days and the term “Christian”(1) hadn’t even been invented yet. Communities and churches were trying to define the right ways to go about living, and interacting within the context of this revolutionary change, this dismantling of all the law in favor of Law. (2)
Just think, church was so different. Often meeting in small groups at home, some still attending Jewish services in temples, trying to work out what the best manner of living was. “The Way” was loaded with possibility and therefore potential for disagreement. Paul encourages the Corinthians to focus on the unifying grace of being covered by the cross.
He says to unify by way of Purpose.
Wesley’s Notes put it this way:
“…No alienation of affection from each other…. joined in the same mind – Affections, desires. And judgment – Touching all the grand truths of the gospel.”(3)
The New Living Translation says:
“united in thought and purpose” the original Greek word used in the passage for “thought” or “opinion” here is “gnome” from the Hellenic Greek “gnosis” (4) which within the context of Paul’s writings would have denoted a more intuitive kind of knowledge. A kind of higher truth, not an opinion on doctrine or even church rules. He was saying that despite HOW you conduct your “Christian” life, church, work, etc…, we can still find comon ground because of a universal truth that we are all privy to. The readers of this letter would have instantly picked up on this meaning. After all this idea of gnosis was thiers after all. Paul was not telling them to choose sides or form opinions. He was presenting the fact that the Truth of God, of Christ, of love and grace and compassion and purpose and wonderful mysterious and complex life, was ALREADY the opinion, the side. There is no argument when universal truth is at the center of the discussion.
Now this is neat….
The term “gnosis” may sound familiar. Remember gnosticism?(5)
It goes deeper too. It crosses over to other cultures and religions-
Gnosis can be translated “cognate” (from Proto-Indo-European) with the Sanskrit word gnana (pronounced nyana – also spelled jnana) that has an equivalent meaning in Buddhist and Hindu as spiritual treatises.
I love that term Spiritual treatises. Imagine! The passage takes on a whole new meaning when it’s not about having all the same opinions, but about a meeting of souls in the universal truth of Gods intentional presence! That is an exciting possibility. All of a sudden doors fly open, acceptance and grace flow freely, and picking sides seems not only infantile but completely unnecessary!
This one passage could do so much to heal the divides not only between denominations but between cultures and backgrounds. The commonality of this wonderful mysterious current of purpose and energy that manifests in so many different ways, is so key in such a small world. If we can learn to recognize and appreciate the likeness of soul in another human we could quite literally change our world.
1. Literally meaning “Little Christ”; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian
2. (see Plato’s “Theory of Forms”).
5. A belief system based on the idea that knowledge of transcendence is arrived at by way of interior, intuitive means; http://www.gnosis.org/gnintro.htm