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.