“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.” 1 Corinthians 1:10 NLT
During the first century CE, the city of Corinth was a bustling business community. The city boasted two sea ports and was a central trade hub for Italy to the west and Asia to the east. People came and went as they travelled for business and pleasure. In addition to its trading prowess it also was home to a wide variety of people of various backgrounds; merchants, teachers, philosophers and immigrants from various parts of the world. Here in this very cosmopolitan setting the Apostle Paul planted a church which he felt the need to nurture by mail.
As we read the letter, we very quickly realize that the church was as diverse and rich in resources as the community it served. Paul points out that they were gifted with many spiritual gifts. They had the benefit of some powerful spiritual leaders, Paul, Apollos and Peter. There were scholars and philosophers and business people of every kind in their ranks, which also meant that there was great wealth among them. All of these things could be considered assets in a fledgling church but instead it was causing division.
The church had become cliquish and factious focusing its energies on debates about who belonged to which group and why it was important. They ranked their spiritual gifts and found ways to contend about who had the better gifts. The philosophers argued the points of the Gospel among themselves trying to make simple things complex. Paul’s letter addressed this problem of division by appealing for harmony and drawing their attention to unity in purpose, “…be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” That sounds like a call to mission.
In our hospital many gifted and highly skilled individuals work together to bring healing to those suffering in our community. We are so different in so many ways; doctors and nurses of various specialties, clinicians of yet more specialties, support personnel such as facilities management, environmental services, nutrition services, administrative services and finance. Add to that list yet more layers of diversity like culture, education, religion, ethnicity and status and there is great potential for division. The one thing that unifies us is Mission. We need always to remember that all of our differences can become a beautiful harmonious expression of love if they are focused on the purpose of fulfilling our mission of healing. We cannot to do it alone so let’s work together.
Be a blessing.
Mark A. Stoddart, M.Div.
Administrative Director for Spiritual Wellness
Shawnee Mission Medical Center