Corinthians 12.21-25I want to focus on that last phrase "that there should be no division in the body." The Greek word for division is schisma, where we get the word schism--a rent, tearing or ripping of the body of Christ.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
The thing that totally rocks me about this text is how these schisms are created. In most of our churches, and throughout church history, schisms are due to doctrinal differences and conflict. But here Paul gets to something that I think is absolutely critical:
The schisms of the church are schisms of honoring and shaming.
What was creating schisms in the church at Corinth wasn't doctrinal. What created the schisms was the shaming of members of the church, the shaming of "weaker" members who were considered to be "unpresentable," members who lacked honor in the wider culture.
Paul's whole discussion about the spiritual gifts in 1 Cor. 12 isn't about getting you or I to inventory our talents. The chapter isn't meant to be a personality test for Christians. The point of discussing the gifts isn't that the gifts exist and that we each need to figure out our respective gifts.
The point in all this isn't that the gifts exist and that you and I have different gifts, but in how those gifts are honored or shamed. It's the shaming of gifts that is the issue.
The healing of schisms for Paul, then, is about learning how to honor properly. Christian community is learning how to honor less "honorable," "weaker," and "unpresentable" members. Division is healed when "the members have equal concern for each other." And this requires rehabilitative action in how we honor. The less honorable members require, according to Paul, "special treatment." In this we imitate God: God gives "greater honor to those who lacked it."
So that's the message I keep preaching--over and over--wherever I go. I'm a theological Johnny Appleseed about this. What is causing schisms in our churches isn't doctrine or theology.
What causes schisms in our churches is how we honor.
What causes schisms in our churches is how we shame people.
What causes schisms is how our churches fail to give "special treatment" and "special honor" to the "unpresentable" and "shameful" members of the church, those who lack honor in the world.