There exists among believers in Christ and non-believers, an expectation that all believers should believe the same way. To those from outside the Christian faith, Christianity seems chaotic, with denominations disagreeing on most everything. It can even appear that what Christians like to do best is argue about the Bible and spend endless hours in theological debate. As a believer, I have also, been confused by this phenomena. I’ve been drawn into it too. Those inside the church often blame false teachers, as groups gather around the men and women who teach the Bible in a way that agrees with them. Each group claims correct doctrine and take doctrinal stands against one another. When those wars pass, navel-gazing begins and the war continues within the group because the truth is, no two people can agree on everything the Bible teaches. When the division ends, the result is often, “we holy four and no more” or people give up on church entirely. Mostly, this is because Christians aren’t God and none of us has a perfect grasp of scripture but that doesn’t keep us from deluding ourselves into believing that our current understanding of the Truth is absolute. It also, doesn’t keep us from judging a brother or sister, who is still growing in the faith as we are, as false because they see things a bit differently. No wonder the world thinks Christians are crazy, we are. When it comes to the Christian faith, there is no organized religion because we are an unorganized mess. This isn’t a new condition. The church was a mess from its founding and that’s exactly the way God wants it to be.
Luke 12:51-53 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. ~~~Jesus~~~
This division isn’t due to family dysfunction. This division is caused by Jesus. In verse 49 of the same book and chapter, Jesus says, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” Fire is destructive and division does act as fire within the church. So, why would Jesus want to do this? Especially, why cause division within the family of God? It is because God doesn’t want us to rule over one another, through religion. God wants to rule us individually, through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus went toe-to-toe with the religious leaders of His day, for this very reason. The Pharisees in particular, inserted themselves between the people and God and used God’s Word to rule over them. Their actions kept the people from looking directly to God for themselves. When Jesus came to save us, there was no longer any need for religious mediation because faith in Jesus restores each believer to a direct relationship with God. Pharisees are alive and well today. Their titles have changed and they promote different religions but there are still those religious leaders who wish to steal God’s power for themselves, by seeking to mediate between believers and God. There are even those lay-persons, who use Biblical teachings for personal power and gain. Division is part of a refining process that exposes those who claim the name of Jesus with false intent and reveals those of genuine faith in Christ.
Understanding that division is an intended part of church life leaves us with the question of how to respond. There are other scriptures that teach on the unity of the faith and also, that it is by the love of members of the church for one another, that non-believers are drawn to faith. Arguing and confusion keeps people away. We aren’t to fight, back-bite, and claw one another. We are to love even our enemies but we are to especially, love those who are a part of the household of faith. Love is the key to unity in the church. We will never unite over what we believe but only, in Who we believe. There is unity only, in our common faith in the person of Jesus; and to get along we must choose to embrace one another in love. Not with human love that is of mere affection but with godly love as described by Paul in, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge it will pass away.
I know there are some who will take an exception with how I understand what Jesus intends by bringing division rather than peace. That’s okay. I choose to love you, anyway. By choosing to love those who don’t agree with me and may even decided to part from my company, I maintain my joy. May God grant me the strength to do so until we all grow into the unity of the faith that is Christ Jesus.