Being the target of a machine gun is NOT fun. I speak from first-hand experience. But there IS a faith lesson to be learned.
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It is amazing how focused you can become when you hear the distinctive sound of machine gun fire – especially when it is aimed at you. All your training kicks in and “taking cover” is an automatic response when you’re getting up close and personal with flying lead. Surviving it is an exemplary “close call.”
There is another type of “up close and personal” event to consider in today’s verse, that of “calling one close” to exhort, admonish, or entreat. All of those concepts are wrapped up in the word Paul uses for “appeal.” And for good reason.
Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, reminding them that UNITY is at the core of who they have been called to be. He almost seems shocked as he writes, “It has been reported to me that there is quarreling among you!” You can almost hear Paul saying, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!” when he’s told that the Corinthians are fighting over who they follow. “Each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
It reminds me of the times when the disciples were arguing about which one of THEM was the greatest. It all kind of misses the point. Because it is never supposed to be about you, and ALWAYS supposed to be about HIM!
So as Paul is making his appeal he asks, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” The answer, obviously, is “NO.”
APPEAL. I don’t often do this in my devotionals, but I want to unpack that one specific word. It comes from the Greek word “PARAKALEO” – which means to send for or summon for the purpose of exhorting or encouraging.
Picture an older and wiser person motioning to someone over whom they have authority. They call them close, wrap an arm around their shoulder, and turn their head so as to speak directly into the ear of the listener. It is deliberately intended to be a focused experience, one that commands undivided attention.
Imagine that the President or Soverign of your nation called you and a few others to come to his office. Imagine, too, that he is your favorite president; one whom you respect and hold in high regard. At one point the President steps aside and motions to you to come over to him. As you do, he places his arm around your shoulder and speaks quietly directly to you and you alone. In that moment, he has your total focus and undivided attention. THAT is the image behind the word “APPEAL.”
Today’s verse is Paul’s appeal?? He says “I appeal to you, brothers, 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.”
Our greatest strength is in our unity. FIRST of all, our unity with Him. Without Him we can do nothing. But our unity with Him REQUIRES that we walk in unity with one another if we are to fulfill the mission He has given us. Our diversity is good, because we are the Body of Christ; our different roles are not meant to cause division but to allow us to accomplish more together than we ever could accomplish apart. If you’re hungry and trying to bring food to your mouth, the hand is pretty important. But only if you ALSO have a mouth! We need EVERY part of the body for optimal functioning.
Today, Paul’s APPEAL rings in our ears. He calls us close and entreats us to listen carefully. He’s begging the church to be united. He knows how division destroys everything it touches.
CHRIST is the ONE we are following, not one another. CHRIST calls us to follow Him in unity. Together. Let’s focus on Him, His call, His grace.
Let us agree to FOLLOW HIM and focus upon HIM. Let us agree to have no divisions among us. Let us agree to be united in the SAME MIND, which is the mind of Christ.
Christ calls us close and speaks to our ear and our heart — BE UNITED.