Saturday, October 15, 2016

United we stand, divided we fall

What does Jesus think about division?  Does he like it?  Does he condone it?  Does he embrace it?

Well, it depends on who you ask.

If you ask a theologian he or she may say something different than someone who is new to the Bible. If you ask a pew warmer he or she may say something different than someone who refuses to have anything to do with religion.

What do you think Jesus thinks about division?

We only have the Bible to find out.  We can't speak to things he may have thought or said that weren't recorded or we didn't hear because we weren't there when he walked the earth.  It would be interesting to speak to him "off the record."  To read those things John talked about, the things that  "Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."

We only get to know what we only get to know.  The mystery of many things remains a mystery.

But there is one thing Jesus said about division that I hate to read.  I hate it and it goes against my need for him to be nice and sweet and unifying and kind and understanding and willing to look the other way and just love me where I'm at.

"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 is not how a good sweet God should try to build his people up.  Isn't there a seminar where we can learn how to get along, where we can learn to listen to each other and communicate with each other in a way that brings mutual understanding and edification?

Surely, you didn't mean what you said?

Could he be the one behind all the division we see right now?

If so, why?  What purpose could there be to division?  Is there a purpose?  What could he be trying to work out the only way it can be brought out but through division?

I used to hate the thought of division.  I couldn't understand how God's people could ever be divided. I thought that if there were enough prayer, enough seminar attendance, enough turning the other cheek, then surely it would be ok.  There would be unity among the brethren.

I liked to believe in fairy tales on earth.

And I said to Jesus, many times,  "What about what Paul said about division?  Hmmmmmm?"

"The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!"  And the hand cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!"  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.  And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.  But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."

And there's Jesus' answer to my argumentatively based question.

He brings division so that the Body can be united.  He brings division, he divides out the parts that are unpresentable, less honorable, dispensable....those parts that are keeping the body from having equal concern for each member of the body.

He brings division to cleanse, to bring honor and modesty to those parts that lack them.

He brings division so that when one part suffers, every part suffers.

Division shows us where the suffering parts are.

There's a lot of suffering parts right now in America, least of which is in the visible church housing the invisible members of the body of Christ.  Some of them may be marching about certain lives mattering.  Some of them may be refusing to see the truth about their candidate.  Some of them may be so sick and tired of everything they have just given up and refuse to engage in anything.  Many of them sit in church buildings, Sunday after Sunday, week after week, never knowing what God is after in the division they are sure is right.

The division is palpable.  The division on the news is a perfect reflection of the division of Christ's body.  We are divided Americans because the visible American church is a divided body.

We have settled for the first statement by Jesus, "I have come to not bring peace but division" and said, "Well, that's what Jesus promised there's no getting around it," yet have failed to take to heart what the Apostle Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to say just a few decades after Jesus' left the earth.

So which is it Lord?  Which will keep us in your good graces?  Which shows our true devotion to you?  What you said, or what you said through Paul?

We're waiting for an answer, Lord.  Can't you see the world is on fire now?  Don't you see the news?  Don't you follow Facebook?  Don't you read the comments?  Don't you see what is going on out there?

"But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other." 

Ugh.  What is that supposed to mean?  I need clear answers, Lord.

What will it matter who is elected if the Body of Christ continues to be divided by its own stubbornness, fears, or personal sense of justice?

Jesus said something else about equal concern for our neighbor.  You know the quote, it gets blasted at his followers from the bystanders who mock believers.  "Love your neighbor as yourself."

It's a good quote.  But it's funny how that quote gets used and the one just before it gets ignored.  Maybe if the one before it didn't get ignored, maybe the division that Jesus said he brought would do its work a little faster so that we could all get down to the callings we've been given.

Have you heard this one?  Have you quoted this one when you quote the Love thy neighbor one?

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this:  'Hear O Israel, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'  The second one is this:  'Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandments greater than these."

If we're working on the first of the greater commands we probably won't have much time for marching or commenting or pouting.

I'm terrible at following my own advice.  Even worse at practicing what I preach.  I like to use that division quote of Jesus to justify some of my own not so pretty behaviors.  Almost like I can say, "See I shouldn't worry so much about making peace with those I don't get along with, because, look, look right here in Luke's gospel Jesus said it was going to be like this."

It's nice to have that as the ace in my pocket to pull out when I don't want to love my neighbor as myself.  When I don't want to give equal concern for the suffering parts of the body because I'm afraid I will give the wrong idea of supporting a brother or sister who is suffering in sin because I'm afraid it will look like I am condoning that "sin" whatever it may be - whether it is vulgarity or false teaching or alcoholism or gossiping or overeating.

Jesus said there will be division in our own family, but he didn't let us know why until decades after his death.  Those early first century Christians had to wait to know why they were being hated by their own families and tossed to lions.  Most probably never knew.  But they do now.  And so do we.

So that equal concern for the Body will be attained.

It doesn't look pretty.  If anything, Jesus was giving us and the early church a heads up on that very fact.

Division isn't pretty.  But it's going to happen.

Division is never pretty when there is no purpose to it.  When it is just division because pride or stubbornness or fear doesn't want to do what it takes to put the effort in to loving my neighbor as myself, let alone working on the loving God with everything part.

But division with purpose is beautiful.  It has an attainable goal.  Division with purpose is so that there is growth.  If a seed never died and its pollen carried in the wind, there would never be new flowers.

Division with Jesus' purpose in mind is beautiful.

When there is no division in the Body its parts will have equal concern for the other.  When one part suffers, all will feel the pain of the one suffering, not just those on this side of the theological aisle.  When one part rejoices, all will rejoice. Not just those who have the most "likes" or "followers."

When division is embraced the way Jesus intends division to be used, God is glorified.

If nothing else during this time of great division, let us ask God these things:

What are the indispensable parts of the your Body?  The honorable parts?  The modest parts?  Where are the parts that lack honor?  What can we do to show equal concern for your body?  Not just the parts of the body that we like or agree with or find more important?

There will be division.  But division does have a role.

Where do you fit in division's purpose?



Luke 12:51
1 Corinthians 1:10
1 Corinthians 11:18
Romans 16:17
John 21:25
Psalm 133:1
John 17:23
Romans 15:5
Ephesians 4:3
Colossians 3:14

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