Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 11 NRSV
Depending on which source you cite, Christianity today includes about 30,000 different denominations, divided along lines of doctrine, liturgy, culture, and nation. We don’t know what Paul would think of this fractured mess the Church has become, but we can guess he still would prescribe the same advice given in this passage.
Even in the early Church followers began to divide up the Body of Christ, attempting to carve out a piece in their own image. Paul pleads with the early Christians to instead “put things in order,” to reach agreement and live in peace.
We may look at the state of the Church today, so fractured along social issues and doctrine, and think this is impossible. But, notice Paul does not urge us to “reach uniformity.” He urges us to be agreeable, to live in peace. Even so long ago, Paul – and Jesus before him – understood there always would be differences of opinion, different approaches to faith and praise. What we are called to in this passage is not to quell or homogenize the different expressions of the relationship between God and God’s children.
What we are called to is to focus our attention not on the differences that divide us – the variations in belief over which we’ve delighted in killing each other in the last millennia. Rather, we are to focus our passions on the commandments which Jesus imparted to us all: to love God, and to love our neighbor.
No matter how diverse our liturgy and doctrine may be, our only appropriate approach to each other is in a spirit of love and peace. Eventually, when all God’s children accept this, our petty differences will pale and fall away, and we all will live together in God’s kingdom. Until then, our hope is in love, especially towards those with whom we do not agree. And in that selfless love we will find the God of love and peace who always is with us.
Lord, help us today to seek agreement with our brothers and sisters, and to seek it not in uniformity of thoughts on this world, but in universal love of you and all our neighbors. Amen.