Divided We Fall…

I was speaking to a good friend recently about some issue…I think it was the end-times stuff…and after I said all I had to say, he pierced me with one humble, honest question: “How is that helping you reach people with the Gospel?” If I remember correctly, when I attempted to respond, I stuttered and stammered as I urgently tried to explain how this subject was helpful in that endeavor…until I finally gave up…I said, “It’s not…and unfortunately, a lot of the subjects I like to spend most of my time discussing/debating have very little to do with making a disciple in Christ…they’re just controversial.” He then began talking to me about the simplicity of the need for solidarity in the Gospel and its proclamation, and how we spend too much time on controversy…and not enough on the clear message of Scripture. 

There’s an old saying, “divide and conquer,” as well as, “divided, we fall.” I’m sure that these are just a sampling of a truth that we have all come to realize…the truth of how a body of people with a cause can be easily conquered when they begin to divide over things that are not central to their cause…and how that division inevitably leads to their failure as a group…and possibly even their demise. One thing the Body of Christ is known for, unfortunately, is division. Sometimes division is necessary…due to doctrinal issues and heresy. During the 3rd-4th centuries A.D., there was a man named Arius that taught that Jesus was not God, but was subordinate to God…which was a major theological problem…seeing that any attack on the identity of Jesus within Christianity is problematic…there was much debate and eventual judgment was cast on this teaching as heresy. However…these types of divisions are rare…and the type that are more common is very troubling…

There are a multitude of sects within Christianity. They typically form out of a debate or an argument over a particular area of doctrine and often it is a debatable area at best. A good example would be those that have divided over the doctrine of election. One side says God, in His sovereignty, chooses those to be saved (and some even say He chooses those to be damned as well), and other side capitalizes on the factor of man choosing to follow God. The interesting thing is that the Bible speaks of both sides of this…that God chooses us and that we choose Him. The more interesting fact is that in terms of volume related to this issue, the Bible speaks very little compared to what it says about other things. Another example is how we view the end of the world…and many of us are willing to cast out as heretics anyone that doesn’t share our particular view. As a matter of fact, within the Southern Baptist Convention, there is quite a debate about the above mentioned issue of election. There are those that want to go strongly in the direction of God’s sovereignty and there are those that feel that this would be heretical and both are willing to debate this issue vehemently to the point of division. Once again…the explanation of this issue is not one that gets much attention in the whole of Scripture…sure, it is implied in many places, but God did not deem it necessary to give us a large portion of explanatory material about this. He wants us to know He is God, and He wants us to follow Him. The Scripture is clear on this…crystal clear…

There are other things the Scripture is clear on…His creation of the world…His love for us…His absolute holiness…Jesus is His Son…Jesus is God…Jesus died for our sins…His invitation for all to receive salvation through Jesus…man’s sinfulness…and the need of all people to hear this truth…which we call the Gospel (and by the way, the Southern Baptist Convention is good at this part). The good thing is that the majority of Christians don’t disagree on these things. We may say it a little differently, but virtually all Christians agree on these truths and many more. The sad thing is that those same Christians will divide from one another over issues that are largely debatable…and the reason these issues are debatable is because God doesn’t give as much Scriptural attention to them…because our understanding of them is not as important as our understanding of the Gospel…which He explains with absolute clarity in Scripture.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we should place the amount of importance on a doctrinal matter that is proportional to how much Biblical discussion exists on the issue. Here’s what I mean…if the Bible talks about something a lot, we should, too, but if it doesn’t then we should be more cautious to be greatly concerned about the issue. I just wonder how much we would divide if we abide by this standard…would we still be so willing to go to the mat over things like whether or not we speak in tongues? Would we even be so obsessed with such issues? If we allow the Bible’s content to dictate our theological discussions in terms of how much we discuss any given issue…I am curious how much Christians would stop debating over issues wherein the Bible is not totally clear…and how we would we spend more of our time talking about that which is absolutely explicit in Scripture…because it says a lot of things clearly.

What if those outside of the church only ever saw us talking to one another in agreement in the Gospel? What if they never saw us dividing over vain controversy…and saw us as a unified Body? What if we stopped to think about the fact that a divided movement is rarely, if ever, successful…and took caution over the warning that if we are divided…we will fall? Would we regroup and join arms once again over that which is most important: the truth that Jesus is the Son of God, and that there is salvation in no other Name…laying aside our petty, controversial divisions…shining the light of the Gospel…loving God…and loving people…what would happen…?

 

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