At no other time is the division of the church more apparent than during the heated and passionate weeks leading up to a Presidential election. But politics in general is just an umbrella label that covers several very controversial and divisive issues that separate the church, some to the point of drawing lines in the sand against brothers and sisters of the faith. As free moral agents God equipped each of us with the ability to reason and form opinions. Those opinions may be based on several factors including life experience, demographics and upbringing. Thank God for diversity of thought lest we be zombie-like followers void of any uniqueness. However, are we as believers afforded the option to differ over basic tenets of Biblically doctrine? What are some of the hot-button topics the enemy is using to divide the church? With much trepidation, I want to examine just a few, in no particular order.
- Same Sex Marriage-this is most certainly not a new issue as the early church had to deal with this shortly after the birth of the church. It has only become a hotly contested issue with current legislation that makes it legal for same-sex couples to marry. As with any good argument, opposing sides seem to be extreme. Stones are cast with equal velocity by those who view this as the mother of all abominations and by those who “judge not”. Is it indeed biological, is it a moral choice, is there restoration offered or is restoration required? As with anything under the sun these answers may be found upon close study of scripture and a sincere seeking of God’s spirit for direction. One thing is certain-it is dividing the body at the highest of levels.
- Racism-perhaps no other issue in modern times has resulted in or been the result of a blasphemous twisting of Holy Scripture. Slave Owners used passages with slave references to instill fear and obedience in a way that was never intended. Although we have evolved as a society from those shameful days of hatred, cells of bias still exist in the church that propagate a continued mistrust particularly between black and white Christians. I have seen and felt this first hand in largely futile attempts at spurring racial dialogue between us. That level of bias is exhibited even behind many pulpits. You have on one side a black church body that continues to see and feel discrimination in a system largely lopsided to their disadvantage, resulting in a defensive and sometimes revolutionary posture. On the other side, a white church that knows the evil of bigotry between brothers but is either ill-equipped to properly engage in the battle, or for self-preservation, chooses to stay clear of controversy completely resulting in a complete ineffectiveness in ending racism. I’m convinced we will never see a complete dissolution of racial hatred in our lifetimes, and it continues to plague the health of the church.
- Abortion-the number one reason some will vote for their favorite candidate or abstain from any vote. More than any other issue, this one affects the voiceless and defenseless innocent. It has been masked as an anti-government invasion of privacy between a woman and sometimes the biological father. It has been debated on arguments of life vs. conception, whether pain is experienced by the unborn child, whether or not the fetus is a living soul before birth, whether or not an unborn child is entitled with the same right to life and liberty the living are afforded, etc. It has been a painful and shameful cancer in the church that tears us asunder much like that of a late term abortion. It’s ugly, disheartening and continuing. There are solutions to reducing abortion that include education, counseling and yes, birth control. While I would never sponsor government endorsed contraception in schools, parents need to stop being naïve about sexual activity during teenage years and be active in teaching Biblical precepts regarding sexual intimacy accompanied with practical advice on contraception. While some would argue that there is no difference in the sin of fornication vs. the sin of abortion, one involves an innocent victim. Yet the church will look the other way on this topic when voting for their candidate of choice, which leads to the next issue.
- Politics-perhaps it has always been this divisive in the body and the popularity of social media simply casts a spotlight and magnifying scope on its existence. That said, the ugliness of partisan political affiliations displayed on posts and threads available for public consumption truly shed a bad light on the body of Christ. At no other time do Christian brothers and sisters hurl such hateful insults at each other than when done over political stances. Core convictions are placed to the side in preference to personal gain and welfare. Personal responsibilities are discarded in lieu of government intervention and regulations. The custody and control of “do unto others” is surrendered to a largely non-Christian administration, defended by those who cite separation of church and state as if we are personally absolved of considering “the least of these” in light of big government agencies. Believers are highly criticized if they vote red-they are equally criticized for voting blue-they are called un-Christian if they abstain-they are called mindless if they vote third party and even accused of supporting ABC candidate if they vote for XYZ candidate. A temporary man-made form of secular leadership has caused many to overlook our eternal citizenship and relationships to each other long after any two-party system ceases to exist. And lest I sound like a stuck record, this too is a top (clergy) down situation where even pastors hang their dirty laundry on social media for all to observe.
What ever the issue of the day, the Word is still relevant and has MUCHO to say about divisions in the church. It plagued the early church just as it does us today. John the Baptist or Jesus, Paul or Apollos, circumcision or not, foods, rituals, traditions-all divisive then just as our social issues are today. Consequently, much was recorded for our consideration:
Romans 16:17; “I appeal to you brothers to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to what you have been taught, and to avoid them, for such do not serve our Lord…”
1 Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you brothers in the name of Jesus Christ that you agree and that there be no divisions among you but that you be of one mind and judgment. “
Titus 3:9; “Avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law for they are unprofitable and worthless. “
Like 11:17; “But He, knowing their thoughts said to them ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and a divided household falls'”.
Our commission is to present through words and our lives a unified gospel of hope, peace, love and forgiveness to a world looking to us for answers. That can’t be accomplished when there are canyons of division that present anything but unity. Love has to be a bridge that holds the church together during enemy attacks. There is but one Holy church, the body of Christ-one savior, and He’s not red or blue but He’s always Right-one Holy Gospel that should be “rightly” divided, not torn into sections to fit preferred lifestyles-one blessed hope that secures eternal communion. How I long for the day when love rules over all evil and the teachings of Christ become our only guiding principle.