I appeal to you, dear brothers, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” — 1 Corinthians 1:10
The Vietnam War remains on of the most troubling and exasperating chapters in American history. Having been into what General De Gaulle warned President Kennedy would be a “quagmire,” the mightiest nation in the world was soundly defeated by a relatively small group of peasant-guerillas.
Endless postmortems have been held since those sad days, but it is widely believed that disagreement between the politicians and the generals was a major part of the problem. The U.S. military had the means and the will to demolish the Vietnamese infrastructure—but the politicians did not have the will.
Discord resulted and uncertainty prevailed. In stark contrast to the American ambivalence to the war, Ho Chi Minh won the day through sheer determination and unwavering objectives.
Lack of focus and inner turmoil spell defeat for any organization, not least the church. Take, for instance, the church in Corinth. The Corinthian believers were blessed with “the generous gifts” God had given them, “enriched…with the gifts of eloquence and every kind of knowledge” (1 Cor. 1:4-5); they were strategically positioned in one of the most influential parts of the ancient world; and they had been taught and trained by the great apostle Paul himself. Yet this church had failed miserably to reach her potential. There were a number of reasons, but heading the list were the deadly twins: lack of focus and inner turmoil.
The church in Corinth had been blessed by good ministry, not only from Paul but also from such luminaries as Peter and Apollos. Peter, Paul and Apollos were, of course, unique—they had differing temperaments and personalities, and no doubt each of them appealed to different segments of the church. There is nothing wrong—or unusual—about that. What was wrong, however, was the divisive partisanship that had developed in the community of believers. Some said, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others said, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ” (1:12).
The result was lack of harmony, the dissipation of spiritual energy on internal struggles, and a reputation for conflict and turmoil. What a singularly unattractive image to project to a skeptical and needy city!
Lost in the partisan struggles was any sense of the “main thing;” but not by Paul. He reminded the Corinthians, “Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—not with clever speeches and high-sounding ideas, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power” (1:17). The main things—“Good News” and the “cross of Christ”—were the focus that the church had lost. The main things were no longer the main things.
Look wherever you will, and the same principle holds true: focus, cohesion and commitment spell victory. Turmoil, strife and confusion promise defeat. In your life and mine, it is so easy to lose sight of the main thing. If we win this battle—we win the war!