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What Does God Want Us to Understand About Community?

The New King James Study Bible shines a spotlight on the apostle Paul’s call for fellowship and unity in his letters to the Corinthian church. This timely emphasis resonates powerfully in a culture so full of division and entrenched opposition.

A closer look at the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians reveals three key principles we need to understand as we work to build harmony and unity in our relationships—especially in our relationships with other believers.

Sowing Disunity Is a Potent Battle Strategy

The apostle Peter warns us that our enemy “the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Think of disunity as his tenderizer; it makes the devouring easier.

The body of Christ, working together, is a force to be reckoned with—and a threat to our enemy. Individually, however, the various parts of that body are limited and ineffective. We’re vulnerable to attack.

That’s why Paul made such an urgent plea to the Corinthians:

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Cor. 1:10).

 

Disunity Comes More Easily Than We Might Care to Admit

In 1 Corinthians 1:4–9, Paul reminds the Corinthian believers of the experiences they shared and the blessings they enjoyed together—things that should have united them and given them a common purpose. They received the grace of Christ. They were enriched spiritually by some of the most prominent teachers of the day.

The fact that the church still found a reason to splinter underscores just how fragile and difficult unity can be. Unity often calls for us to set aside our personal preferences and opinions for the greater good of the group. That’s a tall order

When you factor in personality clashes and differing approaches to conflict, the level of difficulty increases further. Unity is a fragile thing—something that must be monitored closely, discussed frequently, and adjusted proactively.

Leaders Must Be Held to a High Standard

It’s no coincidence that the disunity in the Corinthian church had its roots in issues of leadership. According to Paul, some Corinthian believers declared their loyalty to him; others declared their loyalty to Apollos and Cephas (Peter).

Many people have an affinity for strong leaders. Under the right circumstances, some are even willing to suspend their own judgment in service to a leader. That’s why the principle of “to whom much is given, much is expected” is threaded into the concept of Christian leadership. Christian leaders are the first line of defense against disunity. Their words must unify, not divide.

Paul emphasizes the importance of unity by puncturing the pretensions of leadership. According to him, the names of the individual messengers—Apollos, Peter, and even Paul—are ultimately unimportant. All that matters is the name of the one whose message they are delivering: Jesus Christ. He is our common ground. He is the unshakable foundation on which we can build unity.

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. – 1 Corinthians 3:5-8

 

 

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This commentary is from the New King James Study Bible. With more than 2 million copies sold, it’s no secret that the NKJV Study Bible is a reliable guide for your journey into God’s Word. This Bible provides a complete resource for study, including thousands of notes, articles, extensive cross-references, and features contributed by top evangelical scholars.

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A Little Empathy Goes a Long Way

Empathy is more than an attractive personality trait. It’s an instrument of healing. Jesus understood that better than anyone. He interacted with people from all walks of life—from wealthy merchants to tax collectors to blue-collar workers to the outcasts of society.

Jesus changed their lives because He first understood their lives.

 

In order to follow His example, we need to recognize a few truths about empathy.

Empathy requires heightened powers of observation.

The first step in developing empathy is noticing. That means paying close attention to the people around you—looking past their public face for signs of …

  • pain
  • loneliness
  • confusion
  • depression
  • insecurity
  • … or any other emotions they may be struggling with

In some cases, it might mean simply noticing people who are overlooked by society—the homeless, the addicted, the elderly. Being acknowledged in any way feels like empathy to someone who’s used to being ignored. That creates all kinds of potential and opportunities for us to make a difference in their lives.

Empathy is a drawing card.

Jesus didn’t heal every disabled or hurting person who came to see Him. Yet crowds still thronged to Him. Part of that certainly can be chalked up to the hope of winning the “healing lottery”—being chosen by Jesus for a hands-on curing of blindness, deafness, paraplegia, illness, demon-possession and occasionally death.

But part of it might also be chalked up to the simple fact that Jesus noticed them. He didn’t glance away or hurry past when He encountered hurting people. He held their gaze and searched their eyes. He took note of their circumstances. He felt their pain. He was incensed by their outcast status. He identified so strongly with them that He confused His other followers (see Matthew 25:35-40).

The hurting people in first-century Israel flocked to Jesus because they could tell that He cared about their struggles. They could sense His empathy. What was true for Jesus 2,000 years ago is true (to a lesser degree, of course) for His followers today. If people recognize Christ-like empathy in us, they will be drawn to us. They will invite us into their lives. They will give us a chance to make a difference.

Empathy works social wonders.

Empathy is the key that opens the door to meaningful conversation—the kind of interaction that can change lives. The very nature of empathy, trying to understand the thoughts and feelings of another person, leads to openness and transparency. The right questions, asked with sensitivity, sincerity and empathy, can draw people out in surprising ways. Knowing that someone cares enough to ask the questions is the beginning of healing for many people.

Empathy also goes a long way toward de-escalating conflict. If people sense that you’re trying to talk them out of their opinion, they will almost certainly keep their guard up. If, on the other hand, they sense that you’re trying to understand their point of view, they will be more likely to open up.

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Related Articles:
Four Bible Passages That Leave No Doubt Importance Empathy
Eliminating Divisions Between Us Them
Five Ways You Can Make Gods Love Real To Others

 

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Think About It:

What are some ways God is calling you to show understanding and empathy?