I’d be willing to bet—were I a betting man—that this behavior would have appeared far down your list of things that God hates—if you thought to include it at all: “one who spreads strife among brethren” (Pro. 6:19b). But we should take careful note that when the Spirit of God moved Solomon to mention seven things that God particularly hates, of all the things in the universe he might have included, he ended with this one.
This passage presents the obverse of the truth that is so prominently displayed in the New Testament, namely, the unity, oneness, and fellowship that God intends the church to manifest. Given the reality that every New Testament believer possesses the indwelling Spirit of God, we might be tempted to believe that unity is almost a given. But only a very young or very naïve Christian would ever believe that to be true. Division is the natural state of things, and overcoming that reality requires, not only the supernatural work of the Spirit but also the active will and determination of each and every believer. And since dissension and division are the natural state of man, the Lord is especially desirous of and particularly honored when His body displays the victory of harmony that was wrought for them through Christ’s death for their sins.
Now the strife of which Solomon warns is not largely physical; believers seldom come to blows. Rather, it reflects the lack of a will that is in submission to the Word of God. Yes, anger may foment strife, but anger is usually the result of pride, jealousy, envy, selfishness, or willfulness.
And we should recognize that much strife—often the most damaging because it is insidious—is not the kind that manifests itself in shouting and open arguments. How did Satan create strife against God in the heart of Eve? He began simply by questioning the statement God had made in a disarming way. Yes, strife is more often effected by insidious and underhanded means, by subterfuge and deceit than by screaming recriminations. Have you hinted that the pastor may lack sound judgment (oh, never on “spiritual” matters, of course! But, you know, some of those practical decisions . . . well . . .)? you are spreading strife. Maybe you are wise or clever enough not to make a direct accusation about a brother or sister in Christ, but what about suggestion and innuendo? “He means well; his intentions are the best; he’s very sincere, but . . .” And how much strife is the consequence of gossip disguised as a prayer request?
Do you recognize the carping and complaining spirit you exercise as a source of strife spread among the brethren? Is your suggestion or “constructive criticism” really a poorly masked grumble? Do you intend to create doubt about someone’s character? Are your words intended to make you look good at the expense of someone else? Do you have your own version of deflecting attention from your uncharitable words like the old southern joke that you can say anything about anyone as long as you say, “Bless her heart!”? “She’s one of the homeliest women I’ve ever met, bless her heart.”
Do you state your opinions in an aggressive way or in a fashion that suggests that anyone who disagrees with you must not be possessed of a fully functioning brain? Do you stubbornly hold to your opinions in view of weighty biblical evidence against them? Are you proud, self-righteous, boastful, always filled with your accomplishments and ideas and careless of those of others? All of these contribute to strife among brethren.
God hates division among brethren: it is completely contrary to the purpose for which we have been redeemed. Just before going to the cross, Christ prayed that believers “may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent me” (John 17:21). When the world views your attitude and actions toward fellow believers, does it believe that God sent His Son to save them? Are you in fellowship with your godly brethren?
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