Day 10

Avoiding Division

from the One Another reading plan

James 4:1-12, James 5:7-11, Galatians 5:13-15, Mark 9:42-50, Zechariah 7:9-10

BY Jennifer Redmond

“I guess what I’m saying is that, while I see your points, I respectfully disagree. And that’s ok. [wink face].”

Would you believe me if I said that was a text message I received from a fellow believer on October 30, 2020? 

On this particular Friday, my dear friend had asked me to suss out my thoughts on some political hot topics. To say I felt apprehensive as questions flew and the telltale ellipses bobbed on my screen is an understatement.

Genuine discussion is rare in our culture, even, or sometimes especially so, in Christian community. So I was nervous to risk a friendship. It often seems that animosity rules the day more than brotherly affection, and social media comments reveal more “bit[ing] and devour[ing]” (Galatians 5:15) than “faithful love and compassion” (Zechariah 7:9).

At the end of the day, we did not agree with each other’s conclusions. Yet, we both agreed that we respected each other’s heart and love for Jesus as displayed through our lives and not our votes. The following week we made plans to go out for dinner; our friendship had survived, and though disagreement existed, division did not rule the day. 

James 4 shows us how this seeming contradiction is possible: the majority of the chapter is spent on orienting ourselves in a posture of humility, not towards others, but towards God! See, if we hold a correct view of our individual relationship to God, it will change how we interact with one another. 

“Submit to God,” James tells us in verse 7; “draw near to God” (James 4:8); “humble yourselves before the Lord” (v.10)—all of these actions lay the foundation for this culminating, simple instruction shared in verse 11: “Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters.” We cannot be successful in this pursuit apart from submission to God. James goes on in chapter 5 to remind us that if our focus is where it should be, it becomes much more difficult to complain about others.

If we live in submission to the Spirit with a genuine awareness of His presence, we will not  be prone to complain about one another. Our hearts will be changed. 

James closes chapter 4 with a searing inquiry: “Who are you to judge your neighbor?” (v.12). To judge or criticize another, we must assume an awful lot about our own knowledge; but, remember, it is God alone who can “save” and “destroy” (v.12). 

Be encouraged—God “gives grace to the humble” (v.6). Grace to uplift and not to criticize; in doing so, we show the world a better way, one of “faithful love and compassion” (Zechariah 7:9).

Post Comments (62)

62 thoughts on "Avoiding Division"

  1. Kelly says:

    Skylar-rhank you for sharing the prayer…it is lovely

    CHURCHMOUSE – thankful for your obedience to the Holy Spirit and being a willing vessel of peace. May we all lay down our rocks. ❤

  2. Mari V says:

    Sorry this posted before I was finished. Needless to say since I’m resting I came here to read comments. And I was moved to tears as I read yours. I too experienced a church split about 20 years ago. I remember the pain. Thankfully it did not split up my most precious friend Gretchen and I. Your words and your example of what you spoke that Sunday touched my heart in such an amazing way. I am so moved. I thank God for people like you who obey the leading of the Holy Spirit and speak up with boldness with love. Thank you Churchmouse! I’m so glad you’re back with us. We missed you so much. You are deeply loved and I can’t wait to meet you someday.

  3. Mari V says:

    Churchmouse…… it’s almost 5 PM California time and I’m taking a break/rest from Thanksgiving preparation’s. I’m taking it easy as I’m still recovering from my injury.

  4. Cori says:

    Beautiful, Churchmouse. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Skylar Hilton says:

    Hello dear sisters! I hope you all are doing well!

    The section that spoke to me the most tonight was the Saint Mark section. I think these words are profound. I would rather lose a finger than to offend anybody and cause more strife in the world.

    “Let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.”

    So many of us need to her this message today. We are so willing to separate ourselves from others because of something small.. like different opinions.. but God watches everything and knows this sinful behavior. Instead of creating more division and more problems to the world… we should focus on truly loving other like how Jesus loved us

    Here is a prayer for overcoming a dislike for someone from my catholic book of prayers… I think it would fit with tonight’s teachings

    “Lord, I am aware that this is unchristian of me since Your love for everyone created in Your image is endless, and I, in my blindness, am unable to see you in them or the goodness in him/her that You do. Help me to love others as you do, especially this person that I will learn to forgive. Help me to see you in them. Amen.”

    Have a goodnight!

  6. Michelle Patire says:

    Dang!! Preach Churchmouse!!

    I love this so much. Thank you for taking the time to share your story. What a beautiful move of the Holy Spirit and your obedience to Him :)

    Praise God for that brave young girl — that part touched me. What a beautiful child. Grateful to know God has brought you and your church through so much division.

    I love your heart, Churchmouse. What a beautiful “memorial stone”– literally. Grateful for you!

  7. Church Mouse says:

    I survived two church splits. Both were ugly. When I saw division happening a third time I was deeply saddened and deeply burdened to promote unity and to honor God with our words and actions even if we disagreed. As a member on staff I was asked to speak one Sunday morning to the congregation. I was charged to address about growing dissension. I placed two large baskets of river rock on the floor on both sides of the altar (Yes it took me and my family a long time to wash them all off and find large enough baskets). I somewhat apprehensively approached the pulpit. The Holy Spirit impressed on me to refrain from directly addressing the issues that were dividing us. He gave me the idea of this visual aid. I spoke about the woman caught in adultery, judged by the teachers of the Law and sentenced to death by stoning. I reminded them of Jesus’ comments to the angry, self righteous mob. And I reminded them that all those teachers dropped their stones and walked away for all had sinned. None was without guilt. All had failed to follow the Law. I looked over the congregation and simply asked them to quietly pray and if they felt so led to come forward, pick up a rock and place it on the altar. Would they be willing to confess any offense they held towards another and would they sacrifice that ill will on the altar? I didn’t know if anyone would come forward because tensions were high. BUT GOD. I knelt before the altar myself, stone in my hand, prayed for forgiveness for my contributions to the struggles and then I placed my stone on the altar. I laid it down. I then sat down and waited. And waited. And waited. And then a young girl about age 7 walked up, picked up a rock, knelt down, prayed and put her stone on the altar. And then her parents came forward and her siblings. And other families rose and did the same. Everyone that was there came forward. There were tears shed and hugs given. It was the most precious example of the church setting aside their differences and recommitting to unity. Oh some folks did leave the church but those that stayed leaned hard into reconciliation. The Holy Spirit brought revival and the church is thriving to this day. It was a movement of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t me at all . And that little girl drew a picture of me standing behind the pulpit, two baskets on either side on the floor and the altar covered in stones. I have that photo framed and hanging in the hallway by the door that leads to our garage. I pass it every time I go out or come in. It reminds me to be sure not to pick up any stones. For a long time I even kept a small stone in my pocket and I would hold it when I felt an unkind retort rising within me or impatience leading to an action I would regret. I would touch the stone in my pocket and remember that I have been forgiven much. Who am I to throw a stone?

    Unity thrives when we are willing to admit our culpability and to drop the stones. It’s hard to hold a brother’s hand when you’ve got a rock in yours. Lay that rock down. Open your fist. Extend a hand. That’s your brother /sister in Christ. They’re family. Just lay it down. That rock’s been carried long enough.

  8. Mercy says:

    Such a great and wonderful topic we have today. This is a harder conversation topic, and I really appreciate the transparency/ semi- anonymous part of our stories so we can boldly share and learn. I find it very challenging to work with people, even church people who know God/His words, but we still fall short and let the flesh arise. Since I started working from home, I find more peace and joy, so being in a group of people with different preferences/personalities/self-control capacities and opposite opinions can add a lot of aggravation, hurts and headaches. So what do you do when we are poked and hurt? I find myself sensitive, and easily hurt even just by comments and then withdraw to keep it all in. That’s how I normally react… though my blood boils under the surface. At those moments, I would envision Jesus, when He was mocked and spit on, He did not retaliate, He practiced self-control. Without wood, a fire goes out, without a gossip a quarrel dies down (Proverbs 26:20). Whoever can control his tongue, he can control himself. And ultimately I realize the solution boils down to us zipping our mouth (with all that we have) and suppress our emotions. I find myself coming to the Lord immediately (excusing myself from others) and venting through prayers, I often ask Him to forgive me on this weakness and ask Him to please cleanse my heart of evil thoughts and intentions to retaliate/ defend my honor/talk back/ avoid eye contact and complete interactions, etc. I find that when sharing with the Lord, what I say will be completely confidential, and my attitude will be supernaturally shifted shortly after, and He can correct my heart posture, and thought patterns. Though I trust others, sometimes they will spread what I say (though with good intentions) but that could be easily misunderstood by other hearers. May God give us wisdom and supernatural self-control to nicely navigate these situations. Be blessed sisters.

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