I thank God that I am a part of a congregation that is at peace with God and with each other. Division in religion is rampant in the world! Religious division has been called “The Scandal of Christendom.”
There was a time when men attempted to justify the existence of conflicting religious parties, calling the situation “good,” “healthy,” or “desirable.” Men have even been heard to pray, “Lord, we thank Thee for the many denominations in our country.” But consider the Lord’s prayer for unity: John 17:20-21 (NIV) “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Religious division is most harmful when it exists among those who claim to be the people of God. It has confused more minds, divided more homes, caused more hard feelings among friends, wasted more money, voided more sincere work, and probably caused more souls to be lost than any other single weapon in the devil’s arsenal.
Division is the work of Satan! It cannot be the work of God, for “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33 (NIV) For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints..”).
But someone says, “Read Christ’s statement in Matthew 10:34-36 (NIV) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ ”
This text simply teaches that the people of Christ’s kingdom will, at times, be at variance with the people of the world. It does not endorse or encourage division within His kingdom!
NOTICE SEVERAL PLAIN PASSAGES FROM GOD’S WORD.
“So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another” (Romans 14:19).
“Let him seek peace, and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11).
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
“It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife; but every fool will be quarreling” (Proverbs 20:3).
“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and do ye not walk after the manner of men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
WHAT DESTROYS PEACE?
Contention kills peace.
“As coals are to hot embers, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to inflame strife” (Proverbs 26:21). As wood is to fire a contentious person is to strife. Vengeance destroys peace.
We live in an imperfect world and are part of an imperfect church (from the human side). Sooner or later someone will wrong us, or we will feel as though they have. When such happens, leave retribution to God. Romans 12:19 (NIV) Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
A self-willed spirit can bring division. Trouble is bound to come when a person is set on having his way. Many have the philosophy “I will have it my way or else.” This is especially dangerous among the leaders of the church.
Elders must not be self-willed Titus 1:7 (NIV) Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.
Elders are not to lord it over God’s people 1 Peter 5:3 (NIV) not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
An unholy ambition for power and preeminence destroys peace. This has led to conflicts of both minor and major proportions, from fisticuffs to world wars. It has led to struggle and strife in the church.
“I wrote somewhat unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9). A church with a modem Diotrephes is sure, in time, to have discord. Bitterness, wrath, and anger rob us of peace.
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). These evil traits tend to break the peace of a family, church or community; for they will break forth in word and deed and do injury.
Here are two important verses to consider: Proverbs 29:22 (NIV) An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.
Proverbs 16:32 (NIV) Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.
He who is incapable of controlling himself is unable to handle critical situations because he is incapable of sane decisions.
“Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26).
Foolish and ignorant questions cause strife. “But foolish and ignorant questionings refuse, knowing that they gender strifes” (2 Timothy 2:23).
2 Timothy 2:24 tells us the kind of servants we are to be. Corrupt speech destroys peace. “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth” (Ephesians 4:29).
What constitutes corrupt speech? Hasty words create strife (James 1:19).
Gossip and talebearing excite strife. “A whisperer separateth chief friends” (Proverbs 16:28).
“For lack of wood the fire goeth out; and where there is no whisperer, contention ceaseth” (Proverbs 26:20).
Clamor is to be put away (Ephesians 4:31). This is outcry or a violent expression of discontent. It not only characterizes a mob, but occasionally describes church meetings. The wrong word can be spoken at a delicate time and the whole assembly becomes inflamed.
Railing is forbidden (1 Timothy 6:4,5). This means to insult, revile, and scoff. It is not Christian.
WHAT MAKES FOR PEACE?
A recognition of a standard of authority makes for peace. This is true in the realm of times, weights, and measures. This is also true in religion, which has the Scriptures for its standard (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
A woman once told a preacher that she knew a certain thing was so no matter what the Bible said. If each is his own standard of authority, we will be hopelessly divided.
An unselfish spirit creates peace. Consider Abraham and Lot (Genesis 13:7–11).
“Not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others” (Philippians 2:4).
The practice of the Golden Rule brings peace (Matthew 7:12).
Returning good for evil is one sure way to promote peace. Read Romans 12:20. This is overcoming evil with good. It will bring remorse to a guilty person who has any manhood. A spirit which is easy to be entreated produces peace.
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy o be entreated” (James 3:17).
Each Christian should have a yielding disposition, easy to be entreated, in all matters of opinion. In matters of faith we must be uncompromising. A forgiving spirit makes for peace. “If any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye” (Colossians 3:13).
Read Matthew 6:12. Some people are so hardened that they will not forgive. This makes it hard on both the offender and the offended.
A longsuffering spirit makes for peace. This means that we are patient when offended. This spirit permits time to mediate. Time is a healing ointment for wounded feelings.
“If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). This passage teaches that it is not always possible to be at peace with all men. Peace at any price is a dangerous principle and should not be practiced by Christians. As Christians, we should be willing to sacrifice opinions to be at peace with all men, but we should never compromise truth and duty.