“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, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” (1 Corinthians 1:10, NRSV)
Words like polarization, divisiveness, partisanship, and tribalism are just some of the terms we hear that characterize our current cultural context. The contentious nature of contemporary politics even divides families. It’s all too easy for Christ-followers to fall prey to the same divisive language that separates us one from another; however, we do so at the peril of harming our witness to a world that already views the church with suspicion. Furthermore, our judgments of one another leave us helpless in offering a picture of unity for a fractured nation.
While these divisions have always existed in the church, Christians have historically maintained unity by finding common ground on which we could stand together. This unifying witness traditionally arose from the creeds or statements of faith carefully worked out by church councils. One of the creeds that you are familiar with is the Apostles’ Creed. Its roots are in an Early Church baptismal affirmation of faith for those admitted into church membership at the Easter vigil. People seeking membership spent at least two years in discipleship formation before receiving approval for their baptism. Much of the instruction highlighted the tenets of this creed.
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic [i.e., universal] church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Apostles’ Creed creates a doctrinal framework on which we can build unity. Practically every Sunday, we recite these essential beliefs of the Christian faith and claim them as central to who we are as followers of Jesus Christ. These beliefs define us, and all who share them can identify as our sisters and brothers in Christ. As 1 Corinthians says, we must be united in mind and purpose, and the creeds are the glue that holds us together as we jointly affirm these as central to who we are. While the culture becomes more polarized, let’s show the world how to live together in peace and harmony.