There Must Be Division

I’ve decided to make a mess today. And for all you mothers who read this blog, I don’t plan on cleaning it up, so you may want to just click on the link tab at the top to find another blog to read for today . . .

Division. Division can be, well, divisive. Nuff said.

Division should not characterize the church. Aren’t we the body of Christ? But before Paul warms up to that oft-repeated metaphor, he actually says that there must be division in the church. I’m not making this up.

1 Corinthians 11:19 “For there must in fact be divisions among you, so that those of you who are approved may be evident.” (NET Bible)

Stepping away from the warm, fuzzy utopian dream of the church we often entertain, let’s begin by facing the fact that there are lots of disagreements, divisions, and arguments that arise in every church. My questions are the following: When is division permissible? How far should the church go to preserve the unity of the body of believers? Can there be simultaneous division and unity?

Matters are only made worse when we consider that there may be degrees of division, just as there may be degrees of complexity to each disagreement that arises in the church.

Should we hand people over to Satan as Paul says earlier in the Corinthian letter? Should we hold a disciplinary meeting? Paul doesn’t give instructions regarding how far we should take this.

I personally am willing to emphasize agreements over differences, but when a member of a church starts advocating a doctrine or practicing something at odds with the teachings of scripture, we are faced with a tough decision regarding our course of action.

If anything, Paul’s statement makes it clear that the church should be as dependent on the leading of the Holy Spirit (See the Gospel of John, chapter 17). This is one mess we can’t clean up on our own.

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3 thoughts on “There Must Be Division

  1. Makeesha

    I’m torn here.

    I agree with you very much that “division” is necessary. I think perhaps though where I might disagree is how I define division.

    I think that division is more a motive than a specific action or belief.

    If one is intending to divide (and you can usually tell pretty easily), then it can be a seemingly tiny insignificant thing that requires confronting. Whereas if someone is sincerely questioning even *if* they are teaching wrong doctrine, as long as their heart is not intent on being divisive, then I think it’s ok.

    Because here’s the problem if you take this “protecting the doctrine” too far – you get controlling leaders who kick people out at the very slightest disagreement and do it in the name of unity – – when really it’s conformity and compliance that they want.

    Division can often be a very good thing as long as it’s done well with love and respect, honoring the other.

  2. Randy

    I’ve put alot of thought into this so if you will entertain me.
    1 Corinthians 11:19 to me is only saying that there is division in that particular situation. It by no means authenticates the division taking place today(even though I know it exist). If someone is right about something then that shows there is opposition which implies division. This does not say it is always good or needed.

    I beleive that your example of church discipline is exactly what it is for. In the context of a Church(gathering of people). I’m just saying we have to remember there is the context of “the body” or “the family of god” that is made up of all Christians through out time. When Paul went to Corinth he preached “Christ and Him crucified.” We must unite on this.

    Your refference to John 17 was great because it is Jesus saying with his very own mouth that in order for people to know I am legit you must have unity.

    You say Paul mentions division. I see more talk about unity, brotherly love. Galatians 6:9-10, Ephesians 4:3-6, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18
    , 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12…

    I personally don’t see it as having to emphasis one(unity) or the other(doctrine). To me unity is a totaly different context than disagreements(within orthodoxy). Unity is about how we act in spite of of differences.

    We have differences but not division
    We have preferences but not prejudices
    We have varying methods but the same principles

    Again I apologize for blogging on your property. But this is something I have questioned my self and struggled with. Hope it made some sense.

    BTW I love the WP theme.

  3. ed Post author

    Randy and Makeesha, thanks for adding on. I think this is a good place for Christians to wrestle. Isn’t it easy to point to Paul and say, “Look! Paul approves division sometimes and so we can do the same now!”

    I left my post a big vague and open-ended with the hopes of kindling some discussion. I think Randy’s got it: unity can happen in the midst of disagreements.

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