God Hates Discord
Psalm 133:1 states, “BEHOLD, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity”.
AMEN. And yet so often it seems that we followers of Christ struggle with one another. In my role for TGC-BC, and in previous roles I have had, there have been many situations where Christians are in conflict. Sadly, in my role as a shepherd of God’s family, I believe that one of the great attacks on the church is through dissension.
This is not surprising, as unity is important to God, in fact so important that He makes it a major emphasis of His Word. In John 17, Jesus prays that we would be one and as the apostles seek to apply this, this call is strengthened through their Spirit inspired work (Romans 15:5-6; Philippians 2:1-11). The call, in terms of dealing with those who are divisive in the body is clear and harsh (Titus 3:10). When God describes what He hates, the emphasis falls on one who sows discord with his brother (Proverbs 6:16-19), so the call is for unity, and the danger of those who are divisive is on display in God’s Word. One of the key ways we can lead towards health is to root out division and to replace it with a unity that is an overflow of humility and pursuing the mind of Christ.
Why do Christians struggle so much with disunity? I have three answers, and although there may be more, if we can understand these three it will go a long way to being an answer to Jesus prayer in John 17:23.
The first, I will call Diminished view of reality, although by this I mean anything that impacts one’s normal ability to think. Sometimes when the brain is not able to function in a healthy way it can lead to confusion and disharmony.
A friend shared that his dad was struggling with this, and blamed them for rifling through his pockets leading to an investigation and pain and division in his family. Diminished capacity mentally can lead to division, because of the lack of ability to see reality, or respond in “normal”, or more important, God honouring ways.
The second unity destroyer is Demonic activity. If God values unity, the demonic realm will do everything in their power to attack Christians and their love for one another. We are in a spiritual battle, and the demonic realm will oppose those things which God desires and demands.
The third is perhaps the saddest for me, and I have called it Depravity. This is when our pride and pain get in the way of our pursuit of godliness and God’s will. This occurs when people feel they deserve something, even demand something that they feel is their right, and in that forget God’s call for obedience and trust on their lives. Where because of their self-interests, or pain, they choose to strike out rather than follow the Master.
So as a leader, how can we respond to each of these unity destroyers?
Diminished view of reality: Sometimes life, health, age, negative experiences and so many other things can cause people have perceptions that don’t match reality. Awareness is the key to patient love and gentle correction in these situations. As Christians who live in a fallen world we must be aware of the impact that injuries, depression, age and so many other things can have on how one interacts with the world around them. In situations where this is the factor that is causing disunity mature people should choose to be sensitive, and learn how to tenderly love those who are such blinded. Often help for them is beyond the skillset of the church, so prayer and plugging them in to others who are educated in care is a helpful tool in the pursuit of unity.
Demonic attack: In many ways this overflows into our battle with the flesh, but remembering this battle is real helps us to wage war God’s way (Ephesians 6:10-18). In fact, in all conflict we should begin focused on the spiritual battle, and spend time in prayer and making sure our armour is firmly in place as we engage the real enemy. We are not aware of the schemes of the devil, and one of them is division (2 Corinthians 2:5-11) and the destruction of Christian love (John 13:34-35).
Depravity: This is perhaps the most personal of them all, as we need to be sure we humble ourselves as we deal with conflict. Sadly the flesh not only impacts those trying to solve conflict, it also impacts those we are serving. This makes conflict so much more difficult to resolve in a God honouring way. To grow through this, one must say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and yes to God and offering full submission to Him. To bring peace where depravity rules means choosing His wisdom (James 3:17-18), and His ways (Romans 12:10). We cannot control others (even as we beg for their submission to God), but we can submit to God (James 4:7) and choose self-denial and love in a way that offers peace and open handed love and forgiveness (Romans 12:18). If the people we are seeking to help decide not to personally submit to God’s Word, unity will be very difficult, but the fruit of the Spirit will lead to unity (Galatians 5:22-26).
Being aware of the unity destroyers is helpful, but so is pursuing unity proactively. We can do this by choosing to be on God’s side, and encouraging others to make this same choice (Joshua 5:13-15). We can do this by walking by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), and choosing to trust in God and His Sovereignty at all times (Matthew 10:29-31). If we make it our goal to out honour one another (Romans 12:10), even when we are hurting we will see division almost disappear from the church (Romans 12:1-2).
So what is the next step to the good and pleasant reality of brothers dwelling together in harmony? As a Christian leader, know God, follow God, encourage others to do the same, and SET HIM BEFORE YOU ALWAYS (Psalm 16:8). Lead as a model of conformity to Christ (Galatians 4:19; 1 Corinthians 11:1) and as you follow Him help others in their awareness of God’s view of unity and His pathway to attain it.
May it be said of us that we find unity as we together have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10; 2:16), and where that is fractured may we be found to be doing everything we can to keep in step with the Spirit so that He paves the path for us to find common ground, and that this common ground is His!
Other verses to meditate on in this battle against disunity:
Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 3:13-17; 1 Peter 4:8