Saturday, September 24, 2011

Solving The Problem Of Division In The Church

An unmistakable sign of immature in the Body of Christ is division. You can have the most beautiful, intelligent, gifted, generous people but if division is in their midst everything else gets swallowed up. Unity is a good indication of a people who are growing together; learning, serving, praising, loving, maturing. It doesn't mean that we are all going to agree on every point but maturity remembers the lesson that getting our way is not what is important; love is more important than anything else. Division is the first thing Paul addressed in his letter to the Corinthians.

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. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Division happens when we are possessed by our own importance instead of Jesus'. I know, I've been there. It's when we think we know more than someone else, that we are right, that our opinion is vital to people understanding the truth. It's when we allow ourselves to become more important than Jesus and fail to follow his command to love one another. That command is impossible to follow as long as we are not putting other people ahead of ourselves.

We live in a very "me" oriented society. Maybe not everyone thinks so but I challenge you to keep a notebook on you for a week. Use that notebook to write down every time you put your own needs and interests ahead of someone elses. If you are honest I think you will shock yourself. "Me" is a message we are bombarded with constantly so that it has crept into our psyche. It has become part of us in the way Jesus' mind is suppose to become part of us. We think we are doing well with our little random acts of kindness but in the big picture we are still self-centered and selfish about our time, talents and possessions. I think that many of us are incapable of understanding what Jesus meant when he he told us to love each other as he has loved us. We are incapable until we truly accept his love for us. Once we experience it ourselves we will begin to grasp the importance to love in this same manner. If we could grasp this love, understanding and living it, we would see some major changes in us.

Unity is far more important than any of us give credit to. It even goes beyond unity in our local congregation and encompasses the entire Body of Christ. Unity happens when we set aside our opinions and start basing everything on the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is where the mature mind in Christ dwells. Unity is important because the Word says it is. Let's look again at the process we find in the purpose of the Church:

It was he (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

For me this is the complete package, exactly how a healthy Body functions, with purpose. Today I am emphasizing the part of the process that calls for all of us to reach unity in faith and in the knowledge of Jesus, becoming mature. According to this passage this unity happens when God's people work together. We are able to work together when we realize the same goal, the salvation and spiritual maturity of the lost. This passage begins with a plea from the Holy Spirit:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 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—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)

The plea begins with a challenge to our character, disarming us from our weapons of "self": be humble, gentle, patient, bearing with each other in love, be united in peace. (Do a check-list with yourself.) Then we are reminded there is no division in God. There are not two sides or two opinions in any of this. There is only one truth and it is found in the Word and it is from our God: one body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God and Father. And this one God of all, is over all, through all and in all. This is the truth that permeates everything for those who follow of Jesus. That is where we are united. It's not about denominations and leaders; it is about Jesus.

Often in this age we are too busy defending our denominational positional statements to lift Jesus up with our brothers and sisters. The Word tells us to stop passing judgment based on disputable matters that aren't even based on the Word of God:

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. (Romans 14:1)

When we allow these things to divide us it is revealing our immaturity. When we start allowing ourselves to be separated from our brothers and sisters we need to examine the spirit behind it. We need to set ourselves aside and really examine it and ask if this thing is worth the division it is causing; if it really should take priority over the command to love as Jesus loved? If the matter at hand goes against the Word of God then we are indeed loving our brother by pointing this out to him. However, if it is only about preference and has no affect on our relationship with Jesus we need to allow love to cover it and bear with our brother.

There is nothing of greater importance in the Kingdom than experiencing the love and forgiveness of Jesus every day, of loving God with your entire being and of loving everyone in your life with the love of Jesus. If these are your priorities you will come into maturity quickly. But if you allow unforgiveness, disputable matters, things of this world to come between you and God as well as you and people, you know that you have not quite got a grasp on loving as Jesus has loved us. Unfortunately you could become a tool of division within the Body of Christ.

The subject of unity in the New Testament is far too great to exhaust in this small blog so I encourage you to simply search the passages that speak about unity. Let us throw off everything that hinders and press on together in our desire for maturity in Christ.


The Manic Chef said...

Yes, there can be 'non-important' issues which can cause 'undue' division. But...when it concerns separating ourselves from everything that is of major doctrinal issues, those divisions will and shall be a reality. Do we follow after 'men' and their philosophies, and traditions, or are we to Eph 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
Eph 5:10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
Eph 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
False teachings of doctrine is a division caused by those that teach them, and their traditional practices also. Those who will stand for the Truth as Jesus sees it are the ones who are one in Him, for HE has worked that Love of the truth, and the obedience to adhere to it Himself, by His Holy Spirit. Jesus said himself, that division would come, and needed to come because of the Truth, His Truth, not man's idea of doctrinal truth. I would like to see you describe in detail what divisions you are talking about, you are generalizing, and not very specific in the divisions. With the exception of those that are weak in the faith, we are not to judge, and I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Look forward in reading more from you, the Lord bless you.

Pastor Paul said...

But the blog is not dealing with false teaching. You have taken it off focus which I am not willing to take the argument. The purpose of the blog is to point out the division that comes between brothers and sisters due to non-biblical matters. It is a given that we are to have nothing to do with false teachers, those who teach against the Word of God and the Spirit. But let's deal with people KNOWING the Word before we get into the legitimate divisions. Let's get the foundation right.