The Agora
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One mind

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1Co 1:10).
Such verses as this have been sadly distorted by those who justify divisions. Their reasoning is circuitous and tortuous: 'Paul says we should all agree perfectly and have no divisions. Our ecclesial members do not agree perfectly on such-and-such. Consequently we must divide from those who disagree, in order that we have no divisions among us!'

The point overlooked is this: Paul is admonishing the brethren to the pursuit of an ideal -- perfect oneness in mind and spirit among the brethren. Just because the ecclesia does not immediately achieve such harmony is no reason to throw up one's hands and separate. Does Paul say here anything about separation? Even an imperfect unity must be preserved and nurtured, not dismantled because it has a flaw.

"Fellowship is primarily a 'community of interest' rather than individual advantage. It is the family sharing which keeps Father, Son and believers in a unity of belief as well as purpose; and as far as Father and Son are concerned, this unity is an unbreakable one. But in the hands of believers in the ecclesia it can be a fragile thing, so unpredictable is the human heart. Paul was very conscious of this and exhorted the Corinthian ecclesia: 'Now I beseech you, brethren.. that ye be perfectly joined together.' In practice this vital doctrine of the unity of the Household cannot be manifested without the dedicated effort of every member of each ecclesia. It is, by the Father's will and help, a cooperative and precious creation made possible by the shed blood of Jesus. This whole conception of fellowship is at once magnificent and humbling; but it can be broken: by the disagreement of an individual member with his ecclesia, or vice-versa" (JM, "The Living Ecclesia", Xd 108:56).
In the same context of his Corinthian letter, the apostle stresses that the brethren were called unto the fellowship of God's Son (1Co 1:9). It is a striking concept, reminiscent of the Lord's words: "I will draw all men to me" (Joh 12:32) and "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out" (Joh 6:37). Here is the strongest affirmation of the principle that our "fellowship" is not ours alone -- it is God's and Christ's. And any unilateral attempts by men to subvert or destroy this sublime unity, without clear and certain and incontrovertible evidence from the Bible, is a direct affront to Heaven.

Far from commanding an absolute unity as a condition of fellowship, Paul's words in 1Co 1:10 strongly suggest just the opposite: that differences of opinion and internal schisms already existed in Corinth, and whilst not approved, were at the least preferable to out-and-out division. For Paul to say 'Brethren, we must agree' is certainly not the same as saying 'We must excommunicate all those who do not agree.' Paul was far from being a Pope!

Such fallacious reasoning reminds us of what we might call the "divorce syndrome". To wit: 'Paul says our marriage must conform to the divine ideal. Since it does not, then it is not a proper marriage. Therefore we will divorce and each seek another marriage that will reflect the perfect ideal.' Such an attitude, we trust, will be seen by all to be hopelessly unrealistic. Who can fail to see that the divine ideal of marriage is something to be sought by all husbands and wives, as they seek to overcome their failures and press on toward the mark? Why cannot we all see, also, that this is the proper attitude toward that "marriage" of brethren in the ecclesia? Why must we demand "perfection of fellowship" as the price of unity when experience sadly shows us that nothing else in this life is ever perfect? Why cannot we learn to conquer petty differences and put up with relatively trivial abrasions on our way to achieving a closer approximation of the divine ideal? This is all that Christ -- and Paul -- would have us to do.

In the first-century ecclesias some were "unskillful" while others were able to partake of "strong meat" (Heb 5:11-14). Some were "babes" while others were "fathers". Some were "yet carnal" (1Co 3:3) while others possessed high degrees of spirituality. And it is the same today. In the absolute sense, then, it is impossible that all brethren have "the same mind and the same judgment". Some will always be more advanced than others, and some will always present problems to the rest. True fellowship, like true freedom, does not consist in a rigid like-mindedness on all things -- that is an impossible wish! True fellowship and true freedom does consist in the limited toleration of differences, allowing scope for development in the truth at an individual pace, while the strong patiently help rather than criticize and condemn the weak.

"It must be confessed that divisions oftentimes take place which could be avoided without prejudicing the truth in any way. A little more patience, a little more kindness, a little less sense of personal pride and self-importance, a little more discrimination between essential and non-essential elements of belief -- How many a division would thus have been avoided! To create a division would appear to be considered by some as a very meritorious act, and a proof of zeal and stability in the truth, whereas it often arises that it is a proof of pride, bitterness, and a wayward determination to get one's way at any cost. The truth is that the making of divisions has become far too easy a process, and the time has come when a little resistance should be made to the disintegrating spirit in our midst; and which, if allowed to go unchecked, will work disaster and split the brotherhood into useless shreds... These little ecclesias of ours up and down the land are worth keeping; and any needless disruptive tendency must be strongly resisted" (D Hughes, Xd 40:203,204).
The way to achieve "the same mind" is not to divide from those of a different mind, but as the apostles say, to be condescending, compassionate, and humble. Have we as a brotherhood sincerely and in a wholehearted manner sought this peace and unity? Or have we too often, for the most personal and self-serving of motives, undermined the ecclesial good in the perpetuation of controversies of quite secondary importance? The article quoted above, written in 1903, concludes with some words of almost prophetic import: "If we go on everlastingly agitating on unimportant points, everlastingly dividing and subdividing, the superstructure of the truth, which it has cost so much to re-erect in these latter years, will crumble away and leave behind an irreparable loss. 'Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to destruction, and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand' (Mat 12:25; Luk 11:17)."


Other Bible passages re "one mind":

  1. Uses of "homothumadon": Act 1:14; 2:1; 2:46; 4:24; 5:12; 8:6; 15:25; Rom 15:6.
  2. United in one mind: 1Co 1:10.
  3. Like-minded: Phi 2:2,3.
  4. Be subject to one another: Rom 12:16; 2Co 13:11; Eph 5:21; 1Pe 3:8; 5:5.
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