If God says He hates something, is it a thing we should be doing in the church? Of course not! Those who love God do things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22). We don’t always do that perfectly, but it’s supposed to be our goal. And when we miss the mark, we repent and change and try again.
One of the things the Lord hates and considers an abomination is “he who sows discord among brothers” (Prov. 6:19, all scriptures in this post are WEB version). In Hebrew, “sow” is shalach (H7971), and it means to send out or shoot forth, as in a growing plant putting out leaves. God hates it when someone plants and spreads strife or contention (medan, H4090) among those who are metaphorical or literal family (ach, H251).
So what does it say about us as a church body when there are divisions, disagreements, and rifts in our relationships and beliefs? In some cases, we can disagree on things that are open to interpretation and still fellowship peaceably, which is the right thing to do (Rom. 14). But all too often, when people in the churches disagree they start attacking or ignoring each other rather than working through their issues, resolving doctrinal conflicts, and seeking peace and unity as God intends.
Strife Does Not Come From God
The greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. In contrast, strife is stirred up by hatred, not love (Prov. 10:12). And the people who spread strife are called perverse, lovers of disobedience, greedy, and angry (Prov. 16:28; 17:19; 28:25; 29:22). Those aren’t the sort of things God wants to see when He looks at the people in His chruch.
Now the deeds of the flesh are obvious, which are … hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envy … of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom. (Gal. 5:19-21)
More than half the things in this “works of the flesh” list have to do with discord and disunity. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is things like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Those are the things that stop arguments before they even start.
This Goes Beyond Not Fighting
Scriptures make it quite clear that God puts a high value on peace. Though He warns us that following Him will set people against you (Matt. 10:34-36; John 15:18-21), that sort of strife should only happen between you and the world. There’s supposed to be peace in the church among God’s people.
So then, let us follow after things which make for peace, and things by which we may build one another up. (Rom. 14:19)
On your part, you’re supposed to do what you can to live peacefully with everyone you meet (Rom. 12:18; Heb. 12:14). This is especially important in the church, where it’s an attainable goal because all the believers are supposed to be working toward peace (1 Thes. 5;13). God intends for there to be unity in His church.
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Be perfected, be comforted, be of the same mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Cor. 13:11)
When God talks about peace in His church, it goes beyond simply the absence of strife. While not attacking each other is important, it’s not enough. God wants us to be in unity and agreement because we all have the same mind, understanding, and core focus.
Unity In Following One God
Scripture uses the analogy of a body with Christ as its Head to talk about God’s intent for the church. We’re not all the same — there are diversities of gifts, personalities, and roles — but we’re all part of the same body (1 Cor. 12:1-27). And God’s goal is “that there should be no division in the body” (v.25).
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and humility, with patience, bearing with one another in love; being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all. (Eph. 4:1-6)
The unity in God’s church comes from the fact that we all worship the same God and that we’re all growing to become like Him. When we all “have Christ’s mind,” then we’ll all be on the same page (1 Cor. 2:16). That’s the goal, at least. God doesn’t want for there to be different factions with their own doctrines or favorite human leaders.
The Lord Is Not Divided
We all know that there are many different “flavors” of Christianity out there. People don’t even agree with each other within denominations. And when we think about how to handle that problem, the goal shouldn’t just be to tolerate each other the way the world preaches tolerance for alternative ideas. The goal must be to learn what God intends for His people and grow closer to Him by following Him in the way He intends (not necessarily the way we might “feel” is right), thereby growing more unified as a church.
Now I beg you, brothers, through the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Cor. 1:10)
The Corinthians were aligning themselves with different teachers, saying “I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos.” Paul told them that was ridiculous: Christ isn’t divided and He’s the only one who was crucified to you. Everyone should be saying, “I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 1:11-13). Anyone who can’t or won’t follow Christ alone is still carnal, or “fleshly,” rather than walking in God’s spirit.
I fed you with milk, not with meat; for you weren’t yet ready. Indeed, not even now are you ready, for you are still fleshly. For insofar as there is jealousy, strife, and factions among you, aren’t you fleshly, and don’t you walk in the ways of men? (1 Cor. 3:2-3)
God Doesn’t Author Confusion
It is a blessing from God when we are “of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus” (Rom. 15:5). In contrast, debates, foolish questions, genealogies, strife, profane ideas, and anything that isn’t according to Christ’s doctrine cannot be tolerated in the church (1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7; 6:3-5, 20; 2 Tim. 2:14-16, 23; Tit. 3:9). Divisions and factions reveal who is approved by God and the people who cause them are not in that category (1 Cor. 11:18-19). And they won’t be approved unless/until they repent and change.
Now I beg you, brothers, look out for those who are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them. For those who are such don’t serve our Lord, Jesus Christ (Rom. 16:17-18)
“God is not a God of confusion, but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). He intends for following Christ to bring His people into unity. And when He gives us wisdom, it “is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). If your ideas aren’t coming from those roots, then they’re not grounded in God.
Overcoming The Source of Contention
If we’re humbly seeking God, He will continue to teach us truths about Him and His way of life. And when we “think otherwise” from the doctrine of Christ, He can reveal the truth to us so we can “walk by the same rule” and “be of the same mind” (Phil. 3:15-16).
If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassion, make my joy full, by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better than himself (Phil. 2:1-3)
Paul follows this passage with the instruction to let Christ’s mind develop in you (Phil. 2:5). When we’re actively following Him and living in the Spirit, quarrels and divisions will become less and less of an issue in the church. And when such things do show up they’ll stand-out glaringly against the peace of God which is supposed to characterize a congregation of believers.
When such an issue comes to light, it provides the opportunity to admonish the contentious person in a spirit of love (1 Thes. 5:14; 2 Thes. 3:14-15). And, in some cases, we’ll have to avoid such a person if they refuse to stop following false doctrines and creating factions (Tit. 3:10-11). However, our goal must always be the same as God’s — to see people repent, be saved, and become united in Christ.