By Mark Carpenter, Brazil
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, 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 (NLT)
I was thinking of this verse while reading the responses and criticisms of the recent Mark Galli editorial in Christianity Today and the Philip Yancey interview with Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. Sadly, the kind of venom and polarization seen in these responses seemed far from heeding Paul’s appeal for harmony and unity.
The reaction to these pieces points to the deepening rifts between Christians who seem to be gathering at more and more extreme poles of ideology and opinions in the areas of theology and politics.
In Brazil, it is really no different in the U.S. We have a president who ends up provoking the same sort of reactions that we see in the U.S.
The passage in 1 Corinthians 1:10 does not mean that we should refrain from having an opinion on matters we see as important. Instead, Paul is saying that we must value unity among Christians above our personal, doctrinal and political positions. We should seek to express our ideas in ways that respect and take into consideration alternative points of view.
In Editora Mundo Cristão’s end-of-the-year letter to our readers, we emphasized the need to build bridges in a polarized society. “As a publishing house we seek to distance ourselves from these opposite poles,” the letter read in part. “The declaration of faith that we signed is conservative and historically evangelical while it permits healthy debate between Christians who hold sharply different convictions on nonessential doctrinal matters.”
Our authors don’t always agree with each other, but they all declare the Lordship of Christ. Our role is not to contribute to the polarization; it is to build bridges where opposing forces can meet, communicate, and understand one another.
As Christian publishers, we can contribute to unity in a number of different ways: in the manuscripts that we choose for publication; in the way we counsel our authors and edit our manuscripts; in how we position ourselves on social media; and in the way we exemplify unity and respect even among employees.
MAI is a champion of unity. I believe that we can have an important influence on the publishers, editors and writers whom we train and that MAI as an organization can help build that sort of unity. May we point to Jesus as the ultimate builder of bridges and emphasize our responsibility and ability to bring the extremes back to a place of dialogue, understanding and unity.
Dear Lord, help each of us understand what it means to work together towards unity in the sense that Paul meant it when he spoke to the Corinthians. Help us to be shining examples of Your love in the circles where we live and work and where our influence is felt. Amen.
Mark Carpenter is CEO of Editora Mundo Cristão, Brazil, and director of the MAI International Board.