Sunday's Word invites us to unity. St.Paul desires unity. The Jew-Gentile thing is bothering him. In just three verses, the word "one" shows up seven times referring to an element of faith shared by those divided. Paul wants singularity. Harmony through a shared identity. But we can't be naive about unity like this. It doesn't come naturally, or easily. Paul says we must make every effort to maintain it.
Unity is like keeping a clean house. It isn't the result of cleaning just once. A clean house must be maintained and attended to -- on a regular basis. Our relationships are no different. Think of the small group, the committee or the volunteer team. We all bring the same thing to those settings -- ourselves. We bring our brokenness to bear on our relationships. Like clean houses, our relationships will degrade unless regularly maintained.
Paul has cultural reconciliation in mind in this passage, but we must apply the appeal for unity to all forms of division. With the grip strength of ants in a flood, an interconnected community requires so much external force to break it apart that it can survive for huge stretches of time against adversity. The apostle doesn't care if it doesn't seem natural. Unity is something you work at, even if it's sometimes painful.
The church is intended to be a body living out the mission and purpose of God from the church and to the world. But to get there God envisions us to make missionaries.
Ask the average adult how we grow spiritually, and you'll probably receive a smattering of answers addressing good preaching, devotional life and small group discussion.
But ask most college students, and they will tell you about the mission trip . They'll talk about being asked to lead freshmen when they were seniors. They'll share how their faith and comfort were stretched by feeding the homeless. Maybe we need to learn from ants and students? Is it possible that mission leads to maturation? That the fruit of service is spiritual growth?