“For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” – 1 Corinthians 11:18-19
I know of Christian organizations that avoid taking a stand on some of the issues that divide the church. Since they serve the whole Church, they don’t want to take sides; they choose to avoid divisive issues altogether in order to focus on the things that unite.
At this point you’re probably wondering, “what issues?” so let’s use same-sex marriage as the example. To those that say that Jesus said nothing about same-sex marriage, I would say that the Gospels, along with the rest of the Scriptures, say enough about marriage in general for us to draw a clear conclusion; but let’s move on to the subject at hand.
What if the way we look at division is the problem? I’m not suggesting that in our dialogue (if there is any at all) that we resort to screaming and name-calling or that we not speak the truth in love.
In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote, “there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” The Amplified Bible puts it this way: “For doubtless there have to be factions or parties among you in order that they who are genuine and of approved fitness may become evident and plainly recognized among you.”
In other words, it is through divisions that we learn who is right, according to the Scriptures.
If there is truth to be spoken (and there is), then it is the duty of all of us in the Body of Christ to seek it out. It means doing the hard work of studying and prayerfully ransacking the Scriptures, (to borrow a phrase from John Piper), to learn what God has said in his Word on a particular matter.
We can’t avoid the difficult issues for the sake of unity, but we must be unified in our desire to get the mind of Christ on the difficult issues.
And then we should speak; plainly, clearly and truthfully in love to each other,
“until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4.13-16).
That’s part of seeking unity in Christ; not seeking to bring others into line with our thinking, but seeking to bring our thinking into line with Christ’s.