A few years ago I had an instructor who warned the class, “The minute someone or a group of people start differentiating themselves from others, watch out.” He cautioned us that it is usually the start of a person or group trying to elevate themselves above others. He pointed out that it is particularly worrisome in a church where it can lead to division.
James cautioned us about this very thing. In Chapter 2 he talked about favoritism, giving the example of treating a finely dressed person better than a poorly dressed one. “Have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives (James 2:4, NASB)?” By showing partiality, James said, “you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors (9).”
Building unity in a church can be a challenge among people with so many different backgrounds and life experiences. Paul cautioned us to “not think of yourself more highly than you ought (Romans 12:3, NIV).” He advised the church to humbly appreciate how the Spirit of God works through the different gifts people bring to the body of believers in Jesus. “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (12:5).”
Be vigilant for signs in your church of things that divide and constantly seek ways to build unity. I often have to check my own heart and watch for emerging opinions about others that can grow grow into a grudge or frustration with someone and lead me to talk unfavorably about that person. I am reminded of Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD (NASB).” Me talking negatively about someone to another person in the church could be the start of a crack in the church’s unity.
© 2023, Chris G. Thelen
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called ; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesians 4:2-6 (NIV)
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. James 3:8-10 ( NASB)
Read a post on this topic by Tangie Woods about how gossip can fan the flames of division.