What is it that divides us? And how can it be overcome?
It's not like we do not make attempts to unite.
There was the ecumenical optimism that Pope Francis was going to heal divisions that pock the landscape of the Christian Church.
There was the recent marking of another Martin Luther King Day where people made various attempts at overcoming racial divide.
There is the frequent coming together in our Emerald Coast community on behalf of servicemen who have given their lives and deputies who have had their lives taken from them.
Yet divisions remain.
Common pride in our military and law enforcement is not enough.
Making a holiday of the third Monday of January hardly eradicates racial prejudice.
And the Christian Church remains at least as splintered as ever.
Sober realization is we cannot overcome division.
Why? Because the power that divides is sin. And no human power can counteract sin to truly unify people.
Is there hope?
Consider the Word of God. First Corinthians Chapter 1 reveals the church in Corinth was divided.
One faction had an allegiance to Paul, the founding pastor of their congregation.
Another faction was loyal to Apollos, the pastor when the congregation grew.
Still another faction was dedicated to Peter, renown as foremost of Jesus' 12 disciples.
And a fourth faction was devoted to Jesus.
Certainly nothing unifying comes from a church arguing itself into divided loyalties.
So what hope was there for the Corinthian church?
Verse 18 states, “For the word of the cross is to them that are perishing foolishness, yet to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
The “word of the cross” is the Gospel.
The Gospel is the Good News of God become human also, conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, in the person of Jesus Christ, to live the perfect life we cannot, to die the perfect sacrifice we could not and would not, and to rise from the dead to save people from their sins.
At the heart of the Gospel is the “word of the cross,” that is, the sinless Son of God sent to suffer and die under God's judgment of our sin by pouring out His own blood in our place on the cross.
The word of the cross is foolishness to the unbelieving heart because human nature is so arrogant that it is determined to rely on itself to overcome sin and unite people. And this 1 Corinthians Chapter 1 Word of God says that self-reliance is not only foolishness, it also is powerless.
But the word of the cross is the power, God's power, by which He overcomes sin to heal divisions and maintain unity, deep unity, unity of faith, for the forgiveness of sins and love with God and among His people.
This is our hope for unity. Not by the words we speak or the ideas we generate but by the Word God speaks.
So when a called and ordained servant of the Word speaks the words, “Your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” God speaks and sins are forgiven.
When water is applied in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, God speaks and sins are forgiven.
When people receive Jesus' true body and blood under bread and wine, God speaks and sins are forgiven in communion with Him and with all His people.
The Good News is, by His Word, Jesus heals division!
Kevin Wendt is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Destin.