Be IN Agreement–BE IN IT BABY

June 6, 2011

First Corinthians 1:10

Agreement. Agreement is a friendly word until we ourselves try to agree on an idea or a project or a plan with another person or another group of persons. When that happens, as you may know, there’s a lot of back and forth, posturing, practices of persuasion, rhetoric that gets one side fired up against the other, maybe a little compromise, a little razzle-dazzle, a little manipulative mumbo-jumbo, a handshake, a signature, a notarized document and when all is said and done we have an agreement.

But I’d like to point out this morning that forging agreements is nothing new under sun. A strong biblical word for agreement is covenant. God made a covenant with Abraham and Sarah. He agreed to be their God and to give them a child and that from this child would spring up descendants as thick as the sand on the shore or the stars in the sky. God made a covenant with Moses and the escaping slaves from Egypt. He agreed to be their God—which he was anyway—and they agreed to be his unique people with a unique claim on a unique piece of land. So the point I’m making is that the word agreement runs parallel with the Hebrew notion of a covenant that’s struck with God. And when Jesus arrives on the scene in Roman occupied Judea, lots of covenants have come and gone. Lots of them have been agreed upon with lots of fanfare and hoopla and then eventually forgotten and broken into pieces. Jesus then goes about his sacred business of crafting a new agreement (which by the way is the reason the New Testament is called the New Testament because the writers are all bearing witness to the covenant that God has renewed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus).

Don’t you agree? I remember once having an argument with someone about extraterrestrial life on other planets. And we agreed that is it is possible that other civilizations exist right now on some distant rock that happens to orbit a sun that appears to our eyes like a speck in the night. We agreed. But then the conversation turned to Jesus… It turned to Jesus and whether or not, if he’s the Messiah and Savior of this world, planet earth, wouldn’t it be necessary to have other Saviors to forgive the sins of other creatures on other planets. This, of course, is the kind of discussion that coincides with a busy waitress bringing a few bottles of beer. And as we talked on and on and laughed at ourselves, trying to agree, one thing became clear to me: our agreement on whether Jesus would be the Savior for the whole Universe or for just the known sphere of earth made no difference. What mattered wasn’t the agreement on this side or that side. What mattered was the relationship that allowed us to have the discussion to start with.

And so, let’s take another look at First Corinthians, chapter one, where the apostle Paul writes to one of the first century’s most contentious congregations. He says,
“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you…”

What do you suppose is going on here? And, as we try to imagine that dynamic that occurred in that fellowship over two-thousand years ago, what might that mean for us who live and breath many miles and many moons later?

I would like to suggest that agreeing on an idea or a project or a plan is not nearly as vital as agreeing on the relationship. In this sense, Paul uses very specific language. “Be in agreement.” That is, BE IN IT. Be IN it like a person who swims must be IN the water. BE IN IT like a person who is utterly immersed in the blessing of God and that the blessing of God has nothing to do with right thinking or correct opinions about the world.

In the classic movie, Twelve Angry Men, Henry Fonda plays the part of the one man on the jury who believes that a murder suspect may be innocent of the crime. He is one against eleven. And what’s fascinating is how by the end of the story, all eleven change their minds and agree: the suspect they once had thought to be guilty they agreed was innocent. My point here, however, is not to argue the American system of meting out justice. I simply want to make note of the fact that these twelve men had to stay together and maintain a relationship. And even when they disagreed on the merits of the case and the details of the case, they agreed to BE IN RELATIONSHIP.

Latah Valley—the mind of Christ Jesus is this mind—the audacious and tenacious capacity to BE IN RELATIONSHIP AND NOT TO FAKE IT. At first it might follow the old proverb, that “we agree to disagree.” But listen to where Paul takes the Corinthians in chapter one, verse 26:

“Consider your own call, brothers and sisters, not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish… God chose what is weak… God chose what is low and despised. He is the source of life…”

You see, agreeing to disagree may after all keep us at the level of the world’s categories. And as you well know, the world is very good at making categories for whose in and whose out. Paul’s proposal, by contrast, is that we value above every category the shared, covenantal blessing we have in Christ. God chose us… Wouldn’t you agree?

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