Clement of Rome here speaks out against schisms and division in the Church of Corinth at the end of the first century. He makes clear that every effort must be made to restore and preserve unity and brotherly love in the body of Christ.
The command has been written: Cling to the saints, for those who cling to them will be sanctified. There is a passage in Scripture as well which states: With the innocent man you will be innocent, and with the chosen one you will be chosen also; likewise with the perverse you will deal perversely. Devote yourselves, then, to the innocent and the just; they are God’s chosen ones.
Clement on Schisms & Division
Why are there strife and passion, schisms and even war among you? Do we not possess the same Spirit of grace which was given to us and the same calling in Christ? Why do we tear apart and divide the body of Christ? Why do we revolt against our own body? Why do we reach such a degree of insanity that we forget that we are members of one another?
Do not forget the words of Jesus our Lord: Woe to that man; it would be better for him if he had not been born rather than scandalize one of my chosen ones. Indeed it would be better for him to have a great millstone round his neck and to be drowned in the sea than that he lead astray one of my chosen ones. Your division has led many astray, has made many doubt, has made many despair, and has brought grief upon us all. And still your rebellion continues.
Paul Warned Against Factions
Pick up the letter of blessed Paul the apostle. What did he write to you at the beginning of his ministry? Even then you had developed factions. So Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote to you concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos. But that division involved you in less sin because you were supporting apostles of high reputation and a person approved by them.
Unity & Brotherly Love
We should put an end to this division immediately. Let us fall down before our master and implore his mercy with our tears. Then he will be reconciled to us and restore us to the practice of brotherly love that befits us. For this is the gate of justice that leads to life, as it is written: Open to me the gates of justice. When I have entered there, I shall praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the just shall enter through it. There are many gates which stand open, but the gate of justice is the gateway of Christ. All who enter through this gate are blessed, pursuing their way in holiness and justice, performing all their tasks without discord.
Humility & Zeal for the Common Good
A person may be faithful; he may have the power to utter hidden mysteries; he may be discriminating in the evaluation of what is said and pure in his actions. But the greater he seems to be, the more humbly he ought to act, and the more zealous he should be for the common good rather than his own interest.
This post on division, unity and brotherly love is an excerpt from a letter to the Corinthians by Saint Clement, pope and martyr (Nn. 46, 2 – 47, 4; 48, 1-6: Funk 1, 119-123). It appears in the Roman Office of Readings for Monday of the fourteenth (14th) week in Ordinary Time. The accompanying biblical reading is taken from 2 Samuel 15:7-30 and 16:5-13, the story of the division of Israel due to Absolom’s rebellion against his father, David.
For more on the call to Unity in the One Body of Christ, see the UNITY Section of the Crossroads Initiative Library.