The process of re-opening society and re-gathering as churches has been filled with questions and anxieties – and, I’m learning as I speak with church leaders, divisive conversations in some congregations. Must we wear masks or not? Should we sing? Should we be gathering at all yet? Or, why did we ever stop gathering in the first place?
This reality shouldn’t surprise us. While division may at times be necessary for the sake of the gospel, much division is nothing less than a tool of the enemy – the one who enticed Adam to blame Eve in the Garden of Eden. Here are some reasons division is one of the enemy’s primary strategies—and why we must guard against it.
- Division typically turns believer against believer. That’s the nature of division, of course – but it’s also Satan’s tool to divide and conquer the forces of light against him. We don’t threaten Satan when we’re shooting each other in the back.
- Division distracts from the work of the Great Commission. Every church I’ve seen that fought through an issue of division at least temporarily lost their focus on reaching non-believers. Division is most often an inwardly-focused diversion.
- Division harms our witness before a fractured world. Jesus indicated, in fact, that our oneness would be one way the world would know the Son had come (John 17:20-23). Supernatural unity is a witness of the work of the Spirit; division is an evidence of the work of the enemy.
- Division is often tied to our clinging to our idols. Too often, division is connected to our personal desires or preferences, and we fight for things that matter little in eternity. We selfishly cling to what we want without regard for others, including God—and that’s idolatry.
- Division demoralizes even the best leaders. Few veteran church leaders bear no scars of some kind of church division in the past (or the present). And, the anguish of division can be long-lasting pain that negatively influences the rest of one’s ministry.
- Division can turn young generations from the church. In my experience, they now can’t even remember what the division was about – but they surely still remember how church members acted. Wrong though it may be, they still use those fights as an excuse to avoid church today.
- Division gives the enemy a victory. Paul was clear that we wrestle not against flesh and blood (that is, other human beings), but against principalities and powers (Eph 6:12). So, we ignore their wiles – in fact, we give in to them and follow the enemy’s lead – when we turn against each other.
There’s a reason Jesus prayed for us to be one: unity is a gift and work of God. Let’s ask God to help us stand together against the enemy these days.