Getting Below the Surface
Remember the big divisions that prevent unity? We discussed disagreements in belief, disagreements in practice, and power struggles. Like me, I’m sure you’ve experienced all of these in some way in your church congregation. It’s very ugly and creates division, confusion, and strife in our houses of worship, but it’s not the way we’re supposed to live in the Kingdom.
As bad as this division is, there’s actually more at play than just these disagreements and power struggles. Getting below the surface, we discover attitudes and feelings that are driving these divisions. Peeling back the layers, we discover the sin at the root of these divisions.
The Spark of Division
Imagine having a difference of opinion about an issue or topic with someone at your church. It comes up in a discussion or even a small group class. Maybe the preacher speaks about something in the sermon that you can’t swallow. The difference or disagreement is the spark that begins a fire of division.
But the division doesn’t grow outwardly- not yet. It grows inwardly. Inside you a spark turns into a flame.
Inward sparks that fan the flame of disunity
You get alone, you get by yourself. This is where division happens best. You pull away hoping to think, to sort things out, to get some space. However, isolation was never meant to be a long term solution. Like a sheep who’s wandered off by himself, you’re an easy target for the enemy to attack when you’re alone.
If you disagree with someone, then you might begin to think you can’t trust them. If they are ‘wrong’ about this, then they must be ‘wrong’ about a lot of other stuff too. You begin to mistrust their actions and motives especially if you disagree with someone in leadership like the pastor, an elder, or or deacon. Mistrust will grow and spill onto many other areas until eventually, you don’t trust anything they say or do.
Mistrust will grow until you assume you know what their motives are, and usually you’ll assume their motives are bad and wrong. If you disagree about this topic over here, then you assume that their motives about this topic over there will be misguided as well. Left unchecked, assumptions will run away with you until you’ve convinced yourself that all kinds of crazy, weird and unreasonable things will happen.
It grows like the smell when the trash isn’t taken out. It’s stench lingers and affects everything around you. You can’t seem to get away from it. What starts as mistrust, because they believe different than you, slowly turns into resentment towards them for every action they take leaving the resentment to fester and rot.
Finally, anger will burst through like a volcano because of all the growing resentment. You’re mad. Mad at the person, mad at the situation, mad that it’s all just wrong. If they only agreed with you, it would all be just fine. Peel back those layers a little but more, however, and you’ll find a few other feelings lingering below the anger.
Remember, anger is usually a secondary emotion.
Push past the anger and you could be feeling a loss of control, sadness, or more likely, fear. These primary emotions are at the heart of it all. When you really discover that below the anger, you really might be scared that you are not in control, sad that things might change, or fearful that what you think is right may not be right, then you’ll discover the heart of division and lack of unity.
At the center of division and disunity is “me”. Selfishness and self-centeredness being fed a steady diet of “I want my own way.”
Us vs Them
We start out thinking that the division we’re experiencing is a problem with them. If we’re willing to look closely, disunity is actually a problem that lies within us. True, sometimes the problem really is the other person, but we are never really innocent. Usually our fleshly natures want a piece of the action.
The actual disagreement may be a legitimate issue that needs to be discussed, but if we’re not careful, it could slowly and easily turn into fracture that can’t be healed.
What is at the center of division and disunity?
At the center of division and disunity is “me”. Sin wrapped up in selfishness and self-centeredness.
If the enemy can get you focused on having it your way, through isolation, mistrust, assumptions, resentment, and anger, then unity will not grow and the battle is lost.
I fight this battle with myself too often and too much. It sneaks up on me too easily.
What lies at the heart of division for you? What prevents you from unity?
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