“There are six things the LORD hates – no, seven things he detests . . . a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”
~ Proverbs 6:16, 19
So far we’ve covered three ways in which seeds of discord are sown in the body of Christ.
In this post, I’m going to address another. It’s what the Bible calls “heresy.”
The popular understanding of heresy is that it refers to false doctrine. But this is not entirely correct.
While heresy certainly includes the teaching of false doctrine, the Greek word translated “heresies” in the New Testament actually refers to creating a sect. That is, it’s the act of dividing a body of believers by persuading them to rally around a certain idea or practice . . . even if that idea or practice happens to be true.
Consequently, a person can be a heretic with the truth.
Let me give you a real-life example from a church I once knew many years ago.
Joe was a respected man in the congregation. One day, he began passing out literature to the other members. The literature argued that God wants every child of God to heal the sick and cast out demons. Most Christians believe that healing is in the Bible and that praying for the sick and casting out demons is a good thing.
So Joe believed something that was true.
Yet Joe began to evangelize his belief. He began having meetings in his home to teach people how to heal the sick and cast out demons. A decent number of the congregation attended, and they loved the meetings.
Subtly, some of the people who attended the meetings got the idea that those who didn’t attend Joe’s home gatherings weren’t interested in what God was chiefly interested in. Joe felt the same and unmistakably conveyed this impression to the group.
Friendships began to get strained between those who attended Joe’s meetings and those who did not. Mind you, everyone in the church believed in healing and casting out demons. But they weren’t agreed on how important it was or how much time should be given to it.
Consequently, judgments were made between those who were heavily into these themes and those who weren’t. In a few months, the church was headed toward a split.
Joe was using his doctrine of healing the sick and casting out demons in a divisive way rather than in a way that built the body and encouraged unity.
The situation in Corinth where the Corinthian believers were dividing over their favorite apostolic workers is another example of using something good (in that case, extra-local ministry) to divide God’s people (see 1 Corinthians 1-3).
I’ve often said that a local church shouldn’t specialize in anything except Jesus Christ. And it should take the different aspects of Christ in their due season. We should never limit Christ to one or two truths.
To do so is to create a sect. (See my post on Getting Rid of a Sectarian Spirit Once and For All.)
In short, if we’re properly following the Lord, our spiritual instincts will tell us if we’re using a truth in a divisive way. And of course, teaching false doctrine and rallying the troops around it is another form of heresy . . . the one we most commonly hear about.
Lastly, gossip is another way in which seeds of discord are sown among sisters and brothers in Christ.
“A perverse person stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28).
However, I cannot improve upon Jon Zens’ superb article on the subject, so I’ll just link to it here. You can consider Zens’ article to be Part V of this series.
My hope is that this brief series (which is admittedly very incomplete) will help local assemblies – regardless of the form or structure – to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” For Christ is not divided.