By Lori Rodeheaver
Recently I heard part of a sermon on being divisive. Naturally, it caught my attention because of how many times I’ve been accused of being divisive. I really didn’t get to hear a lot of what Mr. Swindoll said bc I was in the car and had to get out. Anyway, I thought I’d look up some scriptures about the subject and try to determine if I am guilty as charged. Does clairity in doctrine even matter? I personally have always believed it matters a lot, but everywhere I go, it seems, if I bring up matters of doctrine, others will either tell me it really doesn’t matter or that I’m being divisive. Should we really all just put away any and all distinctions and never discuss them? I’m searching the Word of God to see..
Divisive –di·vi·sive (dɪˈvaɪsɪv)
1. forming or expressing division or distribution.
2. creating dissension or discord.
Just reading the definition I would admit that I have indeed caused discord among believers in the past. Is it because I want to be at odds with people or want to stir up trouble? Do I have a problem with unity or loving people unlike myself? I think it’s just the opposite. When I ask another Christian to explain their beliefs or foundation for such, I simply want to know why they believe what they believe and if it lines up with the scriptures. In my heart, I am looking out for them in love, understanding that we cannot build on false teachings or half truths.
Apparently this makes them fearful or insecure in some way and soon after my questions they label me a dissenter or troublemaker. How does the bible describe a divisive person though? Look at Romans 16:17-18:
“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”
Divisive people 1. are NOT serving Christ in motive, but self and 2. they use smooth talk and flattery in an effort to deceive.
The first point, I admit, I may indeed be guilty of in many cases. When it comes to defending truth, however, I see no reason to do so apart from serving Christ and helping others to grow in knowledge and wisdom of His Word. The second point is directly opposite of what I do when trying to correct false beliefs or half truths. Dissenters use “smooth talk” and “flattery” with a motive to lead someone astray; I try my best not to hurt of offend in an effort to lead someone to the truth, but always get accused of offending ppl. That isn’t flattery. lol.
In Paul’s definition of divisive people, he describes them as ppl who, if you will, form alliances so as to gain popularity and spread lies; they are not genuine in words or in friendship. He does not describe them as someone who is willing to forsake popularity and lose friendship in an effort to spread truth. That’s what Jesus said HIS followers would look like.
Why do this if it makes people dislike me? Because it’s what we’re called to as Christians. Some, possibly more than others, as many times I’ve wished for a gift other than discernment. Why couldn’t I just be able to sing or cook? I could bless people so much more happily! God is Sovereign, though.
1Timothy 4:3:16-17 says this:
”All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Scripture is useful for correcting as much as it is for teaching and training. Why? So we might be equipped to do whatever it is God has called us to. If Christians get offended everytime they are corrected, it’s not me they should be upset with, it’s themself bc they are hindering their own growth and preparedness for God’s work.
17 He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. ~Proverbs 10:17
1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.~Proverbs 12:1
Finally, in 1Timothy 4:13-16 let’s look at one more instance where Paul speaks about doctrine:
”Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
Why would Paul speak so adamantly about reading, exhorting, and learning doctrine? He tells Timothy and the others to give themselves “entirely” to these things! What does the word exhort mean?
–verb (used with object)
1. To urge, advise, or caution earnestly; admonish urgently.
–verb (used without object)
2. to give urgent advice, recommendations, or warnings.
He says to take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Take heed to your actions and to the truth of the gospel. That’s what we’re called to do. But what of false teachers and those who spread unbiblical teachings? Jude has a word concerning them:
“These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” ~Jude 1:16
“These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.”~Jude 1:19
What do divisive people do? They flatter and grumble. They do not share the truth in love and genuine concern for a brother or sister with a wrong belief, honestly. Hank Hanegraaff puts it this way in description of the essence of Jude’s letter: “True believers must show great care to defend the truth against opposing ideologies and to lovingly, but sternly, draw others out of the snare or licentious living and unbiblical beliefs.”
I am not saying I am above correction on these matters or any other, in fact, PLEASE correct me when and wherever you see error or untruth in anything I write or say! I am saying that if I correct a belief or ask for an explanation, it’s out of concern and love for you as a brother or sister. It is not because I want to lead you astray or hurt your feelings. I don’t enjoy losing friends, but I’m willing to if Christ calls me to endure that for His sake. I hope this brings some clarity on my gift of discerning error. I love all of you who are of the faith and I pray we can be unified in love and charity in all things.
So…am I divisive? Please tell me if I am looking at this wrong or deceiving myself. I truely want to know. Thanks!