Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Sin of Divisiveness

I want to build on yesterday's message on disputes among the brethren and talk today about the divisiveness they cause. There should be no division among the brethren.  Succumbing to petty quarrels or seeking some kind of vengeance for personal offense makes the church just like the world.  Jesus said the world will know that we are His by our love for one another.  If that love for one another is compromised then so is our witness. If our witness is compromised, the gospel is undermined by our worldly behavior.  Furthermore, getting caught up in petty quarrels has caused friendships, families, and churches alike to split leaving a wake of much pain and resentment.  That, my friends, is why God hates divisiveness. 
These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.  Proverbs 6:16-19 NKJV
A sower of discord among the brethren is an abomination to God.  The sowing of discord is one of the things specifically mentioned by God in this list that He hates.  In order to understand this message, we need to define what discord is and who actually is the one who sows it.  I am not trying to parse words, but we have to discern between correcting bad behavior or bad doctrine to actually sowing discord.  If you read the letters of Paul, they can be seen as argumentative and maybe even divisive at times.  He names names, calls out leaders, and lashes out at bad behavior.  I am sure his letters were met at times with controversy as they oftentimes contained a hard message.  Jesus was also divisive.  He flipped over money tables, questioned the religious leaders of his day, and caused a great schism in the Jewish religion.  In fact, he would heal people in the temple knowing full well an argument would follow.  The discord being talked about here is a rebellion against the truth.  It is also talking about petty quarrels that have no place in the body of Christ.  In the end, it was not Paul's letters or the doctrine of Jesus that were divisive, but it was those who rebelled against those truths that were divisive.  In the end, it is also usually not the sin that is divisive, but the improper handling of the sinner.   With that in mind, let us see what God has to say to us about causing discord among the brethren.
Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.  Titus 3:10-11 NKJV
Basically, a divisive person is to be treated just like any other sinner. They are to be given a specific set of chances to repent, and if they fail to repent, they ara to be rejected from the church.  That is because just like any other sinner, a divisive person is a cancer to the body of Christ. That is how serious this is.  It needs to be addressed and dealt with with all haste and seriousness because it does not take long to spread.  A petty argument can quickly become a great war and false doctrine can spread like wildfire if it tickles the ears of the hearers. So now that we know God hates it and we know how to deal with it, let is look at what divisiveness actually is.
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.  Romans 16:17-18 NKJV
The first kind of dissension is a doctrinal one.  These are people who speak in the example of Satan, tainting the true doctrine of Christ by questioning whether or not God has really said that.  They are not out to edify the body, but to satisfy themselves.  This can be a matter or pride in getting followers unto themselves or thinking themselves better or smarter than the leaders of that church. They can also be people who just want to cover their own sin by twisting doctrine to cover their own needs.  Some even work to merely undermine the faith.  Their marks are the spiritually immature who simply have not had the time or have never taken the time to study the Word of God.  Those are easy marks for the skilled con man twisting the Word of God to their own advantage.  If left to their own devices, they will turn a church away from the true Gospel.  If there is someone in your church manipulating the Word of God and straying from sound doctrine, and especially if they begin sowing the seeds of discord with their lies, you need to call them out.  You really need to bring that to the church leadership and have that issue addressed before it begins to cause division in the body.  As far as I can tell, every heretical pseudo-Christian cult began in a church that taught sound doctrine.  The failure was in those churches allowing that doctrine to spread until it reached a critical mass causing a split from the church bringing many with them to follow those lies.  They should have been stopped dead in their tracks at the first sign.  The only way to completely eradicate weeds without tearing up your whole garden is to remove them when they sprout.  Once their roots take hold and they begin to spread by root and by seed, they are nearly impossible to get rid of.

The other kind of divisiveness has to do with gossip.  Gossip is wretched miserable thing that causes the destruction of relationships like nothing else.  Gossip is not just reading a magazine about celebrities, but it is about spreading things not anyone's business to other people.  This is especially wretched when its goal is to cause strife or out of spirit of maliciousness.  Let us see what the Word says.
He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends.  Proverbs 17:9 NKJV
Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.
As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife.  Proverbs 26:20-21 NKJV
If you act in grace and forgiveness, you maintain friendships and relationships.  If you repeat something to other people, your act can and will separate friends and family.   Arguments go away when kept between the two parties involved. Apologies are made, hands are shaken, and relationships are restored.  That is not the case when someone does not feel the argument should be over and escalates it by rekindling it every time he or she spreads it to others.  This happens way too much in churches today.  It leads to all sorts of pain and broken relationship and has no place in the body of Christ.  Gossip is not just spreading lies about others, but about spreading anything to others that they should be involved in.  It is about bringing other people in a dispute when the Bible tells us otherwise.  It is about being offended on behalf of someone else and creating strife when there is none.  It is about recruiting others to your side of a dispute turning a simple disagreement into an all out argument.  It is about tattling on something that someone may have said with the hopes of causing an argument.  This kind of strife ruins friendships, breaks apart families, leads people to leave churches or the church itself, and even causes churches to split.  It is an abomination in the eyes of God and must be dealt with.  It must be snipped before it has a chance to spread.  If someone asks you to take sides, rebuke them. If someone tries to tell you something to create an issue between you and someone else, rebuke them.  If someone claims to be offended on behalf of someone else, rebuke them as the whole idea of such a thing is merely because that person wants an argument.  Do not let it spread and do not be part of the problem.  Gossip is a disgusting miserable thing and causes more hurt in the body of Christ then just about anything else. 

Please, brothers and sisters, the church is about love of the brethren and unity of the doctrine of Jesus Christ.  We are family, bound the blood thicker than any earthly familial ties and we are bound for eternity.  Acting out of anger instead of grace and forgiveness only serves to hurt the body as a whole.  Even if you were wronged, is it worth the broken families and friendships that will inevitably come for the sake of your petty personal vengeance?  We are all under the grace of Jesus Christ and we must act in grace towards one another. Our witness is directly tied to how we get along with one another and no argument is worth losing the soul of an unbeliever for all eternity.  Hold fast to the doctrine of Jesus Christ and to the love for one another.    
But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Colossians 3:8-15 NKJV

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