Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jesus: the Cause of Division

Today's title comes from the descriptive used at the lectionary pages for Luke 12:49-56
‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
It fell upon our deacon to deliver today's sermon, and he did a commendable job with this reading which as he admitted, might be put into the category of difficult verses by some.

Luke's Gospel spoke to people who knew first hand how becoming a follower of Jesus could divide familes, and these words of Jesus spoke straight to their brokenness. Rick also tied in today's Epistle (Hebrews 11:29-12:2) by reminding us that the early Christians would experience flogging, stoning, and worse (being sawed in two) as evidence of the division caused by Christ.

In the Church itself, divisions seem to never cease. On a micro level, there are often disagreements about finances, worship planning, preaching, teaching, and pastoring. On a macro level there are diferences in theology, doctrine, and Biblical interpretation. I would like to think we could come together and share in the Lord's Supper, but on a macro scale, we can't even do that. Are these the types of divisions that Jesus was talking about in Luke 12? I think not. The divisions I mention above are divisions of human origin, albeit christian humanity who must have believed that they were following Jesus in making these divisions. All of these divisions are tainted with sin, but it just seems to be that the sinner always winds up being the other guy.

From whence do doctrinal differences occur? Some would blame it on Biblical contradictions, others on differences in interpretation, others on new wisdom delivered by the Spirit, and others would blame it on ourselves and our lack of attention to theology, dogma, and doctrine. Here is a sound bite from The Rt. Rev. Dr. C. FitzSimons Allison (Bishop of South Carolina (ret)).
"Western piety has taught generations to neglect doctrine with such slogans as 'doctrine divides, service unites' and 'deeds not creeds.' The resulting centrifugal divisions in Anglicanism can only be healed by recovering our common faith and doctrine. The church in England and America is too far down this anti-doctrinal and anti-confessional synodophobic road to expect any such initiative for unity from them."
The timeless truth is that the cares of the world constantly draw us away from Jesus, and when we do walk in His way, we distance ourselves from not just the world, but from those around us who are bound by the world.

Many of our current divisiveness in the Church seems come from the willingness of some to try to embrace the allures of the world with one arm and Jesus with the other. If we keep one arm bound to the world, we shall either be split in two or lose our grip on Faith. Jesus came to bring division, and that division occurs right inside each and every one of us when we come to Him with both arms open, leaving those earthly things behind.


  1. As Gnade has pointed out, division is probably necessary, as a means of separating the wheat from the chaff.


  2. The harvest time will also be a time for division.

  3. "Jesus: the Cause of Division"

    Yes, He is.

    BTW, Biblical Doctrine is supposed to divide.

  4. T.U.+D.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I think I need a little more background on that one.

  5. Doctrine Is Supposed To Divide.

    We have all heard the familiar refrain, “Doctrine divides.” I think this is true, but I deny that it is a bad thing. Doctrine is supposed to divide. It is supposed to sift us out and show who among us is walking in intentional error. Whenever heresy or schism is spoken of in the Bible, it is always implies that the schismatics were intentionally deviating from the doctrine handed down to them.

    What about love? There is no love in letting a person live in error. It is not loving to let someone drag unsuspecting souls into damnable heresies because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

    The simple fact is: whenever someone appeals to “love” against doctrine, they are betraying their secret belief that doctrine is unimportant. This is simply the Osteen-esque idea that as long as someone is sincere and tries to be nice and smile they can get into heaven, regardless of what they believe. Away with such unity!

    In the words of Martin Luther:

    “Just as in the days of the apostles, so at this day we are forced to hear from certain denominations that we (by our obstinacy to the truth) do offend against love and unity in the churches, because we reject their doctrine. It would be better (they say) that we should let it pass, especially since the doctrine in dispute is what they call ‘non-essential’. And, therefore, (they say) to stir up so great a discord and contention in the church over ‘one or two doctrines’ (and those not the most important ones) is ‘unfruitful’ and unnecessary. To this I reply: Cursed be that love and unity which cannot be preserved except at the peril of the Word of God!”

  6. I think of the example of the Doctrine of the Trinity as something that although sometimes in our minds we drift more to one corner of the triangle than the others, it is when we step outside its boundries that we are in peril of complete separation from God and the Church.

    When false teaching in the Church leads to false doctrine, the sides of the triangle fall apart, the problem is multiplied many, many fold and division of the church becomes necessary to separate the false teachers from the fold.

    False teaching comes from man. Hold onto the Word.