The past few days have shown us a major reality in sports: it is by far more difficult to win than to almost win. As the old saying goes, “close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades,” and this is especially true in sports.
Take the Tennessee Women’s Softball Team. The Lady Vols were an out away from winning game one of the Championship round of the College World Series. Then Sooner Magic happened . . . and OU went on to win the title.
Fast forward to Father’s Day. Phil Mickelson was 18 holes away from winning his first U.S. Open title. A few balls hit into the hay at Merion later, and Justin Rose is a first time major championship winner.
Then look at last night. The entire world was preparing for a San Antonio coronation in the last 30 seconds of game 6 of the NBA Finals. Two clutch 3 point shots and a pair of missed free throws later, and we are headed to Game 7.
In each of these cases, we have seen that it is far more difficult to win the title than to almost win the title.
I was reflecting on this today as I thought back over 1 Corinthians 1:10. In this verse, Paul strongly admonishes the church in Corinth regarding their unity. He says:
I appeal to you brothers and sister, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
Paul here admonishes the church in Corinth to stop dividing over their personalities, philosophies, or plans. Jesus bled and died to create one Church, not many, and Paul was sick and tired of hearing about the bickering that existed among the believers in this Greek town. It seems that their divisions were rooted in pride and self-exaltation. Based on a number of factors, different factions of the church of Corinth claimed superiority over the other factions, based on who led them to Christ (among other things). Paul writes to this crowd and calls them to be of one ________.
But what does Paul call them to? Many times, when we read this as 21st century people, we read this and interpret it as Paul calling them to get into one ROOM. We think that Paul’s chief concern was that the church in Corinth gather in one physical location. This is largely because, as 21st century Christians, we often think of “church” as a location. When we think of it this way, here are some of the applications we come to from 1 Corinthians 1:
If we are Roman Catholic, we say 1 Corinthians 1 tells us that Luther and Calvin and the reformers should have never broken off in the 1500’s.
If we are a mainline protestant, we say that 1 Corinthians 1 tells us that the non-denominational churches should never have broken off and started in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.
If we are a non-denominational church, we say that 1 Corinthians 1 tells us that people should never stop attending our church.
In all these thoughts is the idea that the key understanding of 1 Corinthians 1 is that people be in one ROOM. However, is that what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:10? While I do think 1 Corinthians 1 has something to say about the above mentioned situations, I do not think that is Paul’s primary concern. Look at what he says . . . He does not say that he wants them in one ROOM, he says that he wants them in one MIND. This idea gains further weight when you realize that the church in Corinth was ALREADY meeting in different rooms, meeting in homes instead of in a large church building.
Now, which is more difficult: for believers in one city to get in one room, or to get in one mind? I think the answer is obvious. It is far easier to get people in one room than it is to get them in one mind. Getting people in one room requires invitation, opportunity, and construction . . . three things humans can manage. However, getting people in one mind, requires something supernatural. Getting a group as diverse as the church in one mind, requires the church adopting the mind of Christ — a mind that sees others as more important than themselves; a mind that does not seek to assert our own “rights” at every turn. As Paul wrote to the church in Philippi in Philippians 2:5-8, the church is to have the mind of Christ. When we do, we stop trying to figure out who in the Christian community is better than everyone else, and we focus on God’s glory and how He wants to use us as His servants in the world.
One of my favorite things that I have seen over the past month or so among believers in Norman is a sense of oneness . . . regardless of church attendance. The tornados that ravaged our area brought the churches in town together in one mind. Though we continue to gather in different rooms, we are one mind in serving those in need and showing the love of Christ to a world that is broken and in need.
After preaching on 1 Corinthians 1 last Sunday, I had a dear woman come up to me who has been deeply involved in the tornado response. Here is what she said:
To hear what you have said this morning has put into words the vision and truth I have seen over the last 3+ weeks. Seeing the different churches coming in with like-mindedness has been such a blessing. We pray the unity formed from this tragic situation will continue to bring together the full body of Christ.
AMEN to that.
So, what is more difficult to do: win the championship or almost win it? What is more difficult to get the church in one room or to get them in one mind? Over the past few weeks, the answer is obvious . . . on both counts. Praising God that He has done through His church (and His Sooners) the more difficult thing. 🙂