If you believe what many news sources would tell you these days, we are a divided nation. And not just divided in two. We are divided in so many ways and over so many topics, issues, and ideas that finding an ally we fully agree with can seem almost impossible. Sadly, that division is not limited to the secular world but has invaded the Church as well. This is not a new phenomenon. The Apostle Paul, in a number of places, addresses the issue of division within the early churches and among early believers. He has harsh words for those who seek to sow division, including an exhortation in Romans 16 to say we should avoid such people.
It is easy to agree in principle that we should not seek to cause division. But how do we handle division practically when it rears its ugly head in a conversation or in a relationship?
Here are five helpful things to remember.
1. Remember that we were created as relational beings.
- From the account in Genesis, we see that God made us to be in relationship with Himself and with each other. This relational nature was certainly affected by the fall of mankind, but we must remind ourselves that sin was not part of God’s intent for us. With that in mind, we should be people who work against division.
2. Remember that a biblical perspective is counterintuitive to contemporary culture.
- People who don’t view the Bible as authoritative in their lives will feel no compulsion to subscribe to its views on how to live their lives. Put more simply, the “rules” Christians accept for themselves in the Bible may not be relevant to non-believers. This is true for things like division, but also for other areas of life as well. This is where we have a chance to set an example, to be different in a tangible, noticeable way. Some of the pressure to resolve division may dwell with us initially if we are building a relationship with someone of another faith. By the very nature of our fighting against division, rather than seeking it or encouraging it, we stand apart. People will notice, and we may have a chance to explain why we live the way we do.
3. Remember that the Bible points us towards being peacemakers.
- We are called to be working actively and intentionally toward peace. To be agents of peace. We are instructed to “go to your brother” when we are aware of an issue dividing us. Take an active role in seeking peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness. What if we are stuck? What if we don’t know how to bring peace? We can take the help of elders, leaders, pastors or others who are more skilled than we are in the process. There should be no shame in seeking help to heal a division.
4. Remember that we do not fight against division alone.
- We are not empty-handed. We have been given some powerful resources, including the Holy Spirit, prayer, and our fellow believers in Christ. If the Holy Spirit truly dwells in us and we remain sensitive to His prompting in our lives, we have access to indescribable power when we seek that which honors God. Prayer is a similar resource. It is available at any time of any day. Whether a well-thought-out and articulated prayer or the mumblings and pleadings of a person who simply isn’t sure what to pray, prayer connects us to God and is an important part of the peacemaking process. A broken and seemingly irreparable relationship can experience deep healing when we allow the Holy Spirit to work and bathe the situation in prayer.
5. Remember to set reasonable expectations for what resolution will look like.
- A healed relationship following a division does not necessarily return to the way it was before the division. Often the relationship changes through the process. Some relationships may get stronger and closer, while others may require new boundaries for the relationship to be healthy. Taking time to reflect on expectations will go a long way in helping all of us to manage our relationships emotionally and create a better future for everyone involved.
We live in a world full of division. However, with God’s help, we can do something about it. We can prevent division. We can create peace. Let’s work together as the body of Christ, committing ourselves to listening, cultivating understanding, and most of all, extending grace and love to everyone. Then we will see the walls of division fall down and the love of Jesus bring us all together.