I’m sure it grieves God when there is division in the church. It ought to grieve us all. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, has some ideas about that. I think we all should hear him out.
Since God chose you to be a holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony, And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. (vv 12-15)
First of all, the responsibility of harmony in the church is yours. It’s my responsibility. It’s the responsibility of every individual Christian.
“But she criticized my parenting.”
“But he took the elements to the nursing home when he knew it was my turn.”
“She thinks she’s such a good singer, but she can’t carry a tune.”
“He dresses like a farmer when he comes to church.”
Whatever! Any petty complaint left unchecked will grow into a full-fledged war. All you need is one person to agree with you, then to pass it on until they find someone to agree with them, and so on, and so on.
I’m not talking about theological differences. Any false teaching must be addressed immediately and forcefully. Paul will address that elsewhere. From this text in Colossians, I believe Paul is talking about something quite different.
Any division in a church begins with sin. Pride? Deceit? Look at Paul’s list:
sexual immorality, lust, evil desires, anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, dirty language.
These things aren’t going to heal themselves. And, in fact, become a cancer that destroys. So what does God through Paul say we should do about those things?
Put them to death! Get rid of them. Strip off your old nature and all its wicked deeds.
But wait. Doesn’t God automatically take care of that for me when I’m saved?
Nope. Not usually.
But He promises to give us the strength to take care of those things. The doing is up to us.
Then, and here’s the kicker, we must replace those things with other things. Look back at verses 12-15. Put on mercy, kindness, gentleness, patience. And forgive.
Can you imagine a church where Christians wore those things instead of hurt feelings and pride?
“But she doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.”
Maybe not. But God deserves your forgiveness of her.
Paul leaves us with the following. Are you concerned about division in your church fellowship? Then I challenge you to…
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (vv 16-17)