My heart is heavy.
It pains me to see arguing and division in the church.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:17-19, said, “But in the following instructions, I cannot praise you, For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together. First, I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church, and to some extent I believe it. But, of course, there must be divisions among you so that you who have God’s approval will be recognized!”
(I sense a little sarcasm here at the end. “You have to let everyone know you are the ones who are right and that God approves of your actions, so you have to make sure it is known that anyone who isn’t like you is wrong!”)
Then to Titus, the young minister and leader in the Cretan church, in chapter 3, “Remind the believers…they must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone…Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These things are useless and a waste of time. If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them.”
Which sins? Could it be the sin of not growing and maturing? The writer of Hebrews in chapters 5 and 6 calls them out for not maturing spiritually. He pretty much said they needed to step it up and work toward deeper understanding.
Or could it be the sin of pride and arrogance? 1 Corinthians 8:2-3 says, “Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.” My Bible’s footnotes say that some manuscripts read “the person who loves has full knowledge.” Knowledge of what? The Truth. What is the Truth? Or rather Who is the Truth? John 14:6 tells us Jesus is Truth. John 8:32 says if we know the Truth, the Truth will set us free. Free from what? Sell, v. 34-36 tell us – free from sin. All sin. Romans 8 lets us know He sets us free from a slavery to sin that leads to death, and instead gifted us with a life controlled by the very Spirit of God. Then onto Galatians 5:13-14, Paul tells us that we are to “use [this] freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”
There are so many ways we can “bite and devour”. It doesn’t have to be openly, or even intentionally, malicious. Many times we try to say we are acting “in love”, but in reality we are just trying to justify our own beliefs or actions to make ourselves feel better or keep in our own comfort zone. Sometimes we get in a rut – maybe a personal one or a tradition that has been passed down – and it is so deep we can’t even see over the top of it that there might be a different way. We just follow that track in endless circles, and try to pull others in after us to join us in the rut. And that circles back to the sin of not growing and maturing.
And of course, there’s always the possibility it’s the sin of intentionally stirring up trouble. But we want to think the best of each other and not jump to that conclusion from the get-go. The issue is much more likely one of discomfort or a lack of understanding.
I want to go back to Romans 8 from here. How do we gain understanding? By listening to the Spirit and turning our lives into the Spirit’s control, letting the Spirit live in us. In John 14:17, Jesus says the Holy Spirit leads to all truth. Then in v. 26, that the Spirit will teach everything and remind of everything Jesus had said. Then John tells us again in 1 John 2:27, “But you have received the Holy Spirit, and He lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true – it is not a lie. So just as He has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.” So the Spirit will teach us truth. We just have to open ourselves up to listening to Him.
When we listen to the Spirit, we are in fellowship with Christ. And through Christ, in fellowship with each other.
Paul closes out 2 Corinthians with these words: “Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Life in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Can we do that? Can we put divisions and bickering, stubborn pride and refusal to process behind us? And joyfully lift each other, encouraging one another to grow in love and understanding. Even if it makes us a little uncomfortable. To put our trust in the Lord and where He leads us, through His Spirit. To SHINE and show others our love, His love, and our united fellowship in Him.