|"Unity in Diversity"|
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Have you ever wondered about Jesus’ prayer for unity in the church? “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17: 22-23).
How are we doing with this “glory” that the Lord gave us? Are we truly “one?” Are we in complete “unity?” Does the “world” know this? Hmm.
So now we come to the last thing on our list of seven things that the Lord hates; “a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness that pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6: 16-19; NIV)
“Stirring up dissension.” How do you picture that? To better understand this, perhaps we would do well to first describe what it isn’t. First of all I imagine a peaceful setting where people are getting along reasonably well. I imagine friends and neighbors in a community helping one another out. I imagine them sharing tools, loaning each other a cup of sugar now and then, getting together to help one of their midst put a new roof on his house, and so on and so on. There is peace and harmony. There is brotherhood. There is love. There is unity. Well, you get the picture. Kind of nice, isn’t it? Perhaps we might say that, “it’s utopic.”
|"Stirring Up Dissension?"|
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Can you hear the gossip? Some who have not yet succumbed to the dissension virus ask, “What, they’re moving? You mean, like to another community? Why?” Others, once their closest friends, are now strangely less sympathetic. They shrug their shoulders and say, “Let them go. Who cares! Good riddance!”
While I just made this quixotic community up, I am sure have all witnessed its demise before. Where have we done so, you ask? It comes by many different names. Some recognize it as a church split. For others it is denominationalism. In yet another case it is known as local church membership. Does that shock you?
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious … dissensions, factions” (Galatians 5: 20)
What do church splits, denominationalism and local church membership all have in common? They all pull brothers and sisters apart. They all make a distinction between us and them, and usually they do so with some measure of hurt feelings brought on by one dispute or another.
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 1: 10-12).
In the very next verse the Apostle Paul then asks, “Is Christ divided?” Unfortunately the answer seems to be, “Yes.” Oh, to be sure, our Lord never intended that, but we’ve done it to him. I follow Menno (Mennonites); I follow Calvin (Reformed); I follow Luther (Lutherans). We’ve divided Christ. It seems that we identify ourselves more by our denominational handles than by the name of the Lord. We’re Baptists; we’re Pentecostals; we’re Presbyterians; we’re Anglicans, not to mention a host of others. I have heard some people call denominations “flavors,” as if they were simply buying another ice cream cone.
Denominations are not flavors; they’re factions.
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Ultimately, though, all that has more to do with religion than it has to do with Christ. At the very least, it is not a life in the Spirit, for as the Apostle Paul says, “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16). What are dissensions and factions? They are “acts of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:19).
I define “Dissensions” as those quarrelling hard feelings caused by differences of opinion. Is God happy with this? On the contrary, He HATES it. Not only does He hate “it,” our Proverbs text says that He hates the “man” who stirs up this SIN in others. Notice that again, those who “stir up dissension among brothers,” God hates. Up until now, in the first six parts, it was always a thing that the Lord hated; but now God’s hatred seems to be directed at a man. Perhaps that is why James said, “we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Maybe we should pause and thing about that for a moment.
“Hate” seems like such a hard word. How are we to understand it?
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I like how the Encyclopedia of Bible Words (Lawrence O. Richards; Zondervan, page 325) discusses the objects of God’s hatred. It reads:
It is not surprising to read that God hates wickedness and will have no relationship with the evildoer. God, who loves justice, rightly hates robbery and iniquity (Isa 61:8). The Bible tells us that God also hates hypocritical worship offered by those whose lifestyles show that his moral standards have been ignored (Isa 1:13-15; Am 5:21). God’s hatred of idolatry is also well established.
Usually we human beings are fearful of hatred. Both in ourselves and others it becomes a dominating emotion that robs one of judgment and of compassion. But God’s hatred is different. His hatred is always appropriate, focused on evil and the evildoer. And God’s hatred is always balanced by his attributes of love and compassion. Because God is the moral judge of the universe, he must make distinctions between good and evil. Because God is wholly committed to good, he must react to wickedness and act passionately and wisely to punish. As the psalmist says: “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors” (Ps 5:4-6).
So what are we to make of all this? Certainly we prefer to speak only of the love of God. I know that I do. However, maybe the truth about God is better described as if on a pendulum. It is this, but it is also that. God is one, but He is also Three-in-One. There is election and there is also free will. There is justice and there is also grace. There is Heaven and there is also Hell. There is God’s love and there is also God’s hate.
|"Wind Gauge" in Lethbridge, Alberta. Photo Source: Unknown|
Reminds me of our theological pendulums, sometimes stuck to one side.
What was the Greatest Commandment? Oh yes, love God and love our fellow man. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” said Jesus (Matthew 22: 40). The way I read that, everything that has ever been said about God or will ever be said about God, hangs on love.
Is it reconciliation time? Hmm, I wonder.
Anyway, that’s the way I see it. Peace.