In the readings for this week, we encounter a section from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in which Paul compares the body of Christ’s Church to that of the human body. Paul astutely points out that the bodies we all inhabit are compiled of many unique, complex parts that all work together for the function and survival of the overall being. As vital and important as the heart is, it would be useless without the lungs, and as important as the lungs are, they would not be able to function without the liver. As is true with the Church.
What a beautiful and timely reading as we celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. At times, it may seem like our Church is more divided than ever. With numerous denominations rooted in various doctrines and traditions, it can be easy to notice the differences between us Christians rather than focusing on, as Paul puts it, the fact that we all have been “baptized into the same body.”
Unfortunately, when we are presented with differences, we tend to dismiss them altogether. In our discomfort, we can even go so far as to name that difference as evil. Such tendencies have led to egregious acts of violence and discrimination between groups of Christians who instead of seeing the other as a vital part of the Church’s survival, view the other as a threat who must be stopped. Thankfully in the United States today, the divisions between Christians tend not to result in horrific acts of violence but all too often manifests itself in hateful rhetoric, insular thinking, and further division. 1 Corinthians gives us modern Christians the insight that division is nothing new to the Church, as differences were causing strife even among the earliest of Christians.
During this week as we pray for unity in the Church may we commit to seeing our fellow sibling in Christ (yes, even those we disagree with the most) as vital and necessary to our own survival and wellbeing. May we heed Paul’s words and see other groups of Christians as our neighbors and our friends. This week, let us pray that we can all come together and remember our common baptism, and may this shared knowledge bind us together in the places of our faith where we seem determined to tear each other apart. May we all take peace in and be challenged by the wondrous fact that we are all sheep in the same flock, protected and deeply loved by our Divine Shepherd.
~ Jared Fontenette, B.A. Social Work and Theology, Class of 2022