Division: Within or Without

Matthew 10:34-39

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

In the context above, I’d like to look at the symbolism of the “sword” Jesus mentioned. He was not talking about a literal sword. Putting the verse in context (with the rest of the paragraph), we see that Jesus came to bring division – He’s drawing a very clear line in the sand.

Now, we must follow in Jesus’ footsteps, right? We need to, similarly, draw a line in the sand with those that don’t believe what we do… Though, maybe not.

John 17:20

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Jesus is praying that we (those who will believe) will be one in Him.

Why the mixed message? How can we be divided, yet one? It’s actually really simple for the left-brained, it’s basic algebra!

Mark 3:25

And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.

If we are in Him (aka believers), we are to be united – in algebra we would denote this by grouping believers parenthetically and/or into variables.

us = me + you

The me variable contains everything I am. The you variable contains everything you are. Together we can be combined into the us variable. Stick with me.

Now, we remove ourselves from the nonbelievers.

believers = us – nonbelievers -or- believers = (me + you) – nonbelievers

See that, we combine ourselves together and then remove ourselves. Am I implying that Jesus wants us to separate ourselves from nonbelievers? No. (At least not completely.) Jesus modeled this for us by going to parties with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors. We don’t need to remove their presence from our lives, we need to remove their influence from our lives.

Now, the good stuff…

We are not to look for reasons to separate ourselves (our body) from the “Baptecostal” (borrowing a word from Ap Jamie Englehart) church down the street. We may differ in views of how certain scriptures are interpreted or applied (even though we know we are right), music styles or even how one should dress to attend “church” but we should never, never, NEVER lose sight of what we believe that is similar (the Gospel) – Jesus Christ was the Son of the living God; He was born to a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on a cross, was resurrected on the third day and now sits beside the Father, interceding for us, and that is by our faith in Him that we are saved.

We don’t have to agree on everything in between. Most churches can’t even agree what “saved” really means, much less the whole grace vs works debate (which will probably continue until Christ comes back). When our communities see us as a whole, they see division. They see that only our church members come to our church picnic. They see picketers on the news. They hear Pentecostals complaining about Catholic doctrine. They see and hear it all. Why should they want what we claim to have? They have enough problems in their lives without deciding which church to go to, what to believe, how to dress and, heaven forbid, how will I hide my past from those self-righteous finger-pointers?

Our current equation tends to look a little different than what we looked at above (because we can’t help exalting ourselves a little bit more). To do so we declare the variable true believers by removing those that we know are wrong (aka different).

true believers = (((believers – Catholics) – Methodists) – Baptists) – Pentecostals

Let’s be the church, the bride, the body…

1 Corinthians 12:12-26

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

This does not sound like the image the church has today. The good news is that we can fix it – there’s still time!


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