Before We Divide

 

I have come to the conclusion that division among God’s people can never be the will of God.  Forget about all the well-worn reasons used to justify church riffs and splits, division is in no way from God.

Consider just these few well-known Scripture references:

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush to evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. – Proverbs 6:16-19

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father just as you are in me and I am in you… I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one and we are one… May they be brought in complete unity to let the world know that you sent me. – John 17:20-23

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.– 1st Corinthians 1:10

Is Christ divided? – 1st Corinthians 1:13

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.- Ephesians 4:3

Where, in any of these verses, can we find any reason to divide? Yes, I am too aware of the real fact that often serious problems arise in church, but, again, it is just not God’s way to handle them by dividing. The charge is to “make every effort” to not divide.

So with this in mind, here are some suggestions to consider before we divide:

  • Work to gain a broader perspective. I turn to the apostle Paul here writing in a context of church disputes. In Galatians 5:6, he said, The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love. Division usually occurs when other matters start counting more. By understanding what matters most to God we can put our issues in the proper perspective which in turn will lead us to handle them gently and without the harmful emotions which fuel division.
  • Practice “one another” religion. No mistake that the Holy Spirit included the numerous “one another” passages in the New Testament. A big dose of the Golden Rule will stop division every time.
  • Stop judging. In another context of church problems, Paul made it crystal clear that we do not have the right to pass judgment on each other in dissputable matters. (See Romans 2 & 14)
  • Let God handle the small stuff.  This also has to do with perspective. In my experience division often comes over small stuff made into big stuff. If all parties involved would relax, pray and let God handle the small stuff, the drive to divide over them would go away.
  • Check our egos at God’s door. All too often division is fueled by personality clashes which become ego-driven affairs. A little humility will go along way in avoiding division.
  • Always be a peacemaker. From Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:9) to Paul’s appeal to make peace in the midst of church conflict (Romans 14:19) to James teaching on the wisdom of heaven being revealed through peacemakers (James 3:17-18) being a peacemaker is a thread that runs throughout the New Testament.

The church is simply bigger than me and when I get in the way of its precious unity then I have crossed God’s line. It doesn’t matter about the issue or even the doctrine, there is just no biblical teaching that supports harmful, soul-wrenching, angry, ugly division. I may have to quietly leave my church if things out-of-my control become unbearable and unbiblical, but I should never seek to contribute to nasty division doing so.

Before we divide let’s give God every chance to work in our hearts and our churches.

Advertisements

15 Responses to Before We Divide

  1. preacherman says:

    Danny,
    Amen!
    Excellent post brother.
    I totally agree that is never God’s will that we divide. May we always try to reconcile our differences. Strive for unity. I am moved by Jesus’ prayer in John 17. I believe we are the answer to that prayer. I often think to myself is unity possible? Can we answer the prayer? Can we show the world we are one? Will it ever come? I pray. I hope. I pray. Again, your post is needed in a time when churches are spliting over stupid things. If only they would be directed to your blog or open to it. If only they would understand that it is Christ church paid with highest price, his blood. God bless you for what you have written. May we all strive for unity. Peace. Oneness.

  2. dannydodd says:

    Thanks preach. If we would just understand the price paid for unity…

  3. johndobbs says:

    I like your last point. Leave if you must … but do not be arrogant enough to assume that everyone else must leave as well. A change of pace is needed at times I suppose … but rounding up a big gang of dissenters is not the way to do it… it hurts too many people.

  4. Darin says:

    I hear ya.

    What happens when one side feels they are trying to right past division which in turn causes division?

  5. dannydodd says:

    Tough question Darin.

    God’s agenda of unity should be ours and anyone in an honest pursuit of such is doing a noble task in my opinion.

    Disputable issues will always be around and God has given us clear guidelines to follow to seek unity even when these differences occur. (See Romans 14)

    If we follow them we will not pursue division and we will find common ground around which to rally even with those who approach God differently as they sing praises to God.

  6. odgie says:

    Wandered in from John Dobbs’ blog and I have to say “Wow!” I wish every church that was on the verge of splitting would read this.

  7. […] Before we divide…Danny Dodd reflects. […]

  8. Charlie says:

    Danny – Good thoughts and a powerful call to love and unity.

    I’ve come to believe that one of the major reasons for divisions is the (I think) false idea that everyone has be able to live out their Christianity in the same “space”.

    There are degrees of closeness. Within a single congregation there needs to be a sufficient sameness of belief and practice to allow everyone to work together for God’s glory rather than wasting time & energy debating “who is right”.

    Within a “faith group” there equally has to be some basis for a more intimate fellowship and perhaps we can apply this to other faith groups — the degree of intimacy and union is less but we can still be united in Christ.

    So what do we do about the reality that people will see scripture differently.

    We can have a “compromised” unity where we find some small list of things we can agree on( a creed) and expect people to compromise their personal convictions to accomodate the “greater good”

    OR we can fight about it and divide

    OR is there a 3rd option? –

    I’ve come to think that we need to model our unity using the “Abraham-Lot” principle and the “Paul-Barnabas” principle.

    If we in good conscience cannot work together -live together then why not acknowledge that we can separate physically to different “pastures” and still be united in Christ. Let God work out the good that can come from all circumstances rather than bringing Jesus into shame in the world because his followers are “fighting with each other” (That’s not to say that like families we can’t continue to have “passionate” debate about each others beliefs as long as it doesn’t overflow into a “turf war” that harms the lost people who need to see Jesus in our churches.

    Anyhow – my thoughts

    God Bless
    Charlie

  9. dannydodd says:

    Appreciate you wandering in Odgie- and thanks for the comments.

    Excellent thoughts Charlie. If we could just accept each other like this then division would definitely be avoided and God’s work would multiple.

  10. I would wonder how many of you have been in a congregation when it split and also how many have been part of a congregation that split at one time other than when you were there. My guess is too many of us have experience with this. My experience is that they had to do with power and pride.

  11. dannydodd says:

    Unfortunately, Tommy, I have been the preacher of a church in which a group worked- mainly behind the scenes- to raise false alarms about liberalism and create such a tense and hurtful situation that elders resigned and ultimately many left- with the accusing group leading the way. My ability to minister at that church never fully recovered. And yes, power and pride from every direction- including my own- were contributing factors.

    The church here suffered an excruiating split a couple of years before we arrived. Praise God, though, that through his grace, we seem to have put that behind us and have allowed forgiveness and grace to guide us. God is blessing us with a energized ministry and a growing body.

  12. Trey Morgan says:

    Danny … is that a “list” of things on this post? You might be a “closet” list man. Come out brother, come out. 🙂

    Excellent post. Excellent suggestions. Excellent list.

    I pray that divisions will become a thing of the past!

  13. johndobbs says:

    Behold the List Man Speaketh!

  14. dannydodd says:

    What is up with all this list talk? Lol

  15. Great post Danny. We need more preaching, teaching and thinking like this.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: