When Christians Pick Sides

“I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.  No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” – 1 Corinthians 11:18-19

I don’t think there are many things more discouraging to church leaders than to see  divisions in their church. I don’t mean simple differences of opinions.  Whenever you get more than one person in the same room, it’s guaranteed that a difference of opinion will surface, whether it’s something minor like favored sports team or even more significant like candidates for political office.  What I’m talking about are those divisions that result in a break in fellowship (or which reveal that biblical fellowship never existed).

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Whenever I think of the church in Corinth, awareness of their immaturity and carnality surfaces quickly. So much of what Paul wrote to them in his first letter dealt with the superficiality of their faith which too often revealed itself in unrighteous attitudes and behavior.  In the passage referenced above and in succeeding verses, he points to a serious deficit in their regard for each other, particularly toward poorer members of the church, when they came together for the Lord’s Supper, one of the times when the unity of the church should be a defining mark.

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We know from reading the first chapter of this letter that one of the sources of division in the Corinthian church was based on which Christian “personality” (Paul, Apollos, Peter, Christ) church members aligned themselves to. I read all of this, and almost feel the disgust that Paul feels because he’s got to try to nip this junk in the bud to protect the infant church from itself as it struggles to grow in maturity and strength and to protect the integrity of the church’s testimony to an unbelieving world.

In the years since this letter to the Corinthian Christians, how far have we come? I think a long and good way in many, many ways.  But I’m also cognizant that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” and one of the ways he does that is to get us to divide ourselves into factions that reveal the absence of fellowship and a lack of interest in being in fellowship.  Are there Christians with whom I cannot be in fellowship?  What about you?  Do they exist?  If the answer is “yes,” then maybe Paul is talking to us, too.

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I find it telling that the same word used for “divisions” or “factions” is used for the word “heresy,” because when Christians take competing sides on issues that have little to do with GOD’s love, with GOD’s redemptive cares, with GOD’s word (our truth), with GOD’s will (our path), when we exchange any side for GOD’s side, this has the effect of distracting people and pulling them away from the faith which is, fundamentally, what heresy is.

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Our humanity allows us to connect emotionally with other people, issues and other things with a capacity that is probably much deeper than we are aware. A stewardship responsibility comes with this wonderful ability.  We need GOD’s help in discerning the issues to which we align ourselves, particularly when they have the potential to separate us from others.  Not everything out there and available for us to sign-up to is from GOD nor necessarily pleasing to Him, and constitutes “junk” that needs to be nipped in the bud before it damages the church and its testimony.  John the Apostle says much the same thing when he says, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John4:1).

Doing this will help us get on and stay on GOD’s side.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2018. All right reserved for text content.

 

© Byron L. Hannon, 2018. All right reserved for text content.

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