I read a lot this week about division. I wrote some too but mostly I read. Here and there the Southern Baptist Bloggers are writing various gray-scale versions of my way or the highway. If you want to see some good hand to hand infighting Google or Technorati can set you up pretty quickly with a handful of SBC sites airing the dirty laundry. Baptists are talking about division but I’m not actually certain they’ve got a good handle on what it means.
Up until recently I was convinced that God had to have ordained the split as his preferred method of planting churches—at least SBC churches. It’s not new carpet, it’s a missions initiative! Woot! Anyway, division is biblical as we shall see—just not biblical in the ways we expect.
Mark 3 has two incidents that bear examination in regard to this point. The first is Mark 3:21. Jesus family hears about the crowds and goes to set him straight. “He is out of his mind,” they say. Standing outside the place where He was, they called to Him. The crowd relayed the message “[Your mother and brothers] are seeking you” and He replies with this. “Here are my mother and brothers” they are also “Whoever does the will of God…” Obedience to the Word of God, not cooperation, is the determining factor for belonging to the family of God.
A hard truth, a dividing truth, but one that in the end brought great unity—to the church as a whole—at the expense of earthly relationships. Not in earthly relationships, but he continued his ministry in spite of the cost. He preached the gospel as we are commanded to do in spite of what the world thought about him. His family said he was crazy but the Pharisees thought something worse: they accused him of being possessed by Satan.
Crazy is often a state of mind. It doesn’t have to be a broken one, just outside the status quo and Jesus was often firmly outside that as least with respect to the Jews. He knew they were plotting against Him. Mark 3:29 says the scribes were saying “He is possessed by an unclean spirit” in context we know they were not just talking about any demon but the prince of demons. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” he asks them and then points out something that is so obvious that we might miss it if we’re not paying attention. He can’t. If a kingdom or a house is divided against itself it cannot stand.
Two kinds of division, one event…it’s a very important point. There is division from those who do not obey the word of God—unbelievers. That’s the good kind. There’s division in the church—that’s the bad kind. A house, a kingdom, a denomination cannot stand if it is divided against itself. Nor can it stand if it does not separate itself from those who do not believe.
Call me crazy, but I think its time the church and her shepherds actually begin to make sure all the sheep are sheep and not goats.