The Danger of Division
I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
– I Corinthians 1:10, NLT
The Rocky movies have become part of American media history. In Rocky V, there’s a famous scene where Rocky is fighting the Drago, the tall blonde Russian that only has 9 lines in the movie. They are duking it out, and Rocky is getting a pounding. The bell rings, and Rocky goes to his corner of the ring to regroup and regain strength.
After getting the snot beat out of him, Rocky says, “I see three of him out there!” Paulie, one of Rocky’s best friends and coach says, “Hit the one in the middle!” “Right, hit the one in the middle,” another coach chimes in.
What’s interesting about that line is that it was supposedly borrowed from a legendary moment in boxing history. On June 8, 1933, in Yankee Stadium, American Max Baer and Max Schmeling the German were going toe to toe for the heavyweight Championship of the World title.
Baer got beaten and bruised before the fight was almost called. Baer stumbled into his corner and says to his cornerman, Jack Dempsey, “I see three of him.”
Jack responds and says, “Hit the one in the middle.” Baer got up and did just that. He knocked his opponent out cold on the floor, defeated him and won by a technical knockout!
Ever got a concussion, or hit your head so hard your vision gets distorted? In the Christian life, our opponent seeks to knock us out, and his jabs can easily distort our vision for the Christian life.
The word division means two visions. In the Christian life, there is a battle going on for two competing visions. One is God’s Kingdom, a Kingdom of Light, and the other is Satan’s Kingdom, a Kingdom of Darkness.
Whatever God creates, Satan counterfeits. He mimics, lies, and lures others into following him, but his end is not peace and prosperity, but death and destruction. The enemy knows that if he can’t destroy you, he will seek to weaken you by creating a division within your Christian community and family.
The Devil desires to do as much harm as he can against the church, and he knows if he can divide the church and the Christians, he can weaken their forces in order to defeat them. He seeks to stir up trouble, anger, rage and riots, destruction, and division.
THE DEVIL ATTACKS US WITH DIVISION
When we see division in today’s culture, we need to consider the fight behind the fight. It’s not about white people fighting black people or cops and looters or rioters. The origin of this division is demonic. Scripture tells us the Satan took one-third of the angels with him when he rebelled against God (Revelation 12:4); these are what we know as demons or fallen angels.
Lucifer was one of God’s top angels. He was called the morning, and his name means luminous one. He was in charge of music in God’s kingdom before the creation of humanity.
In time he grew jealous of God and started a rebellion. He created a division within God’s angel army and ever since there has been a war going on in the heavenly places, and the tensions that we see on earth are actually a result of spiritual conflict. The pattern of destruction is division.
THE RIPPLE EFFECT OF DIVISION IN GENESIS
Just as Satan sought to divide the angels, he also created a division within our first parents, lying to them, deceiving them, creating conflict, and tempting them to rebel against God. (Genesis 3)
The ripple effect of sin has made its way into all humanity, where there is continual division: fighting and factions, wars and battles, clashes, and corruption. It all started with the Devil, the father of deception and division (John 8:44).
The outcome of division in biblical history plays itself out quickly. There’s a tragic murder in Genesis 4: the first murder. Cain, one of Adam and Eve’s first children, kills his brother Abel. The family is being destroyed by demonic attacks of division and deception. Later we find in the story of Jacob and Esau, there is division within these two brothers. And even today, our faith (that is, Christianity and Judaism) is tied to Jacob, and Islam is tied to Esau.
Make no mistake: division is demonic. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul warns us to stay away from those that create division (Romans 16:17-18), to warn divisive people a time or two and then cut them off, as they are beyond your help. While God can do anything, you can’t (Titus 3:9-11). Divisive people are dangerous. God loves unity, but the devil loves division. Where there is division you can bet there is demonic work going on.
THE EARLY CHURCH
In the early church, the unifying message was the gospel of Jesus Christ, that all could be forgiven through Jesus Christ. Because he died on the cross, we can live. Because he rose again, we too can rise again to a new life with new power and experience eternal life. When the church experienced revivals, Satan sought to bring riots.
As in the example of the Apostle Paul in the city of Ephesus, there is a great revival that breaks out and yet within a short time, Satan stirs up a riot (Act 19:21-41)! There always an attack on good and Godly work that usually comes in the form of division and deception.
THE DEVIL SEEKS TO DIVIDE THE APOSTLES
Another example of this fight behind the fight, or the devil’s attempt to divide, is the conflict between the Apostle Paul and Peter. Both were gifted and called by God to serve as Apostles. They had seen the risen Lord and were commissioned by him and given supernatural powers to declare and demonstrate the Kingdom of God.
In Galatians 2:11-14, we grasp a glimpse of Paul’s frustration with Peter, and how he sternly opposed him and his hypocritical behavior. This was the result of Peter being a people pleaser, and Pau’s fierce and ferocious commitment to speak the truth of the gospel no matter what. The division was significant enough for Paul to make it a public matter to the church in Galatia. Paul rebuked Peter publicly and privately.
Additionally, we gain insight from Acts 15, where we read about a council that was called together over this matter and eventually worked it out. Imagine how the early church was a target for the enemy. As a hunter, I train in the offseason by going to the shooting range or some remote area. As hunting season nears, I am more ready for the real thing. As the church was growing, Satan’s attacked became more targeted and tactical. He knew if he couldn’t destroy the leaders, perhaps he could divide them. God used the tension for a greater sense of unity, but the lesson is that some leaders are slow learners and fall into temptation. Peter was that slow learner and fell into the temptation of people-pleasing.
FIGHT BEHIND THE FIGHT
There is division everywhere. Why? Because God’s vision has been vastly forsaken for a vision for self-ism. Whatever self wants, needs or feels, self gets. Because self is God. In the name of tolerance, we abandon truth. In the name of love, we forsake justice. What should be obvious to the Christian is not always obvious to all. There is a fight behind the fight, a war behind the war. It’s not about black against white, Democrats against Republicans, our country against another country. It’s about something far greater: it’s battle of sin in the hearts of humanity, and spiritual forces of darkness seeking to destroy all that’s good and godly (John 10:10-29, Ephesians 6:12, 2 Corinthians 11:14, I Peter 5:8).
As the Apostle Paul said, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, NLT).
Our only hope is to join together. While the phrase “better together” may seem catchy or cliché, it’s true. We are better together!