Homonoia is an ancient Greek concept which means “of one mind.” This concept was largely political in is origins, as classical Greek thinkers and rulers adopted the understanding to create unity among their subjects and states. Phillip II of Macedonia utilized Homonoia around the year 338 BC to unite Greek states and wage war against the Persian Empire. After his death, his son Alexander the Great continued to utilize Homonoia. From there, Homonoia spread under the Roman rule.
In a similar vein, Scripture often utilizes this idea of “one mind” in its attempt to unify Christians.
Allow me to set the stage:
In 1 Corinthians, Paul opens his letter in chapter 1 by addressing divisions in the young church. These divisions were related to Christian figures the Corinthian church followed and divided over (v. 12). These divisions likely stemmed from whomever originally converted them to Christianity. Paul, being one of these key figures, asserts, “Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (v.13). Paul then pushes further, claiming not to have baptized many so that no one can claim to be baptized in his name (v.15). Why is Paul so concerned over these factions that he would not baptize?
Let’s back up to verse 10, “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.” Paul opens his opposition to divisions by calling the church in Corinth to “be united in the same mind,” recognizing his audience as products of the Greco-Roman culture and employing a concept they are likely familiar with. The major difference, however, is that, unlike political leaders of the age, Paul is utilizing a call for unity for the sake of the gospel.
Fast forward to 2018.
We are 21st century Americans and witnessing a historically divided political landscape. What is unfortunate is that our churches do not seem to look much different. Our Church of Christ heritage reclaimed a goal toward unity. The problem is, we are people with different experiences, backgrounds, and methods of interpretation. We are often so engrossed with the stigma of human-made labels which we attribute to specific belief systems, and because we define ourselves by our doctrine, leaders, and sacramental practices (much like the Corinthian church), our attempts at unity frequently endorse schism in the church. We have forgotten Paul’s desire to “be united in the same mind.” This goal was not for us to think the same or agree on every disputed doctrinal dilemma. However, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul offers alternative grounds for maintaining unity:
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit … one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph 4:2-6)
Perhaps, by being humble and gentle, we can learn to extend grace, by approaching conversations with a goal of learning and understanding another’s point of view instead of entering conversations with intent to prove our point. Perhaps we can bear with one another in love and strive for relationship with Christian brothers and sisters based on our shared love of Christ while assuming they are also striving toward faithfulness to Christ, even when conclusions of doctrinal practices do not align. Perhaps there is one body and one spirit, one God and Father of all which is above all. Until the church recognizes Christ alone as the only avenue toward unity, we will continue to be left with a false sense of comfort within our literal and figurative walls. For the sake of the gospel, let us break these walls down.