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Is Christ Divided?

I need not tell you what we are losing every day over division. It ruptures households. It denies access to loved ones. It weakens our outreach. It sours our young people. It fails to give honor to our Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone loses. Everyone.
By DAVE JENNINGS
Read Time: 4 minutes

I begin this editorial with an apology. When I became Editor of the Tidings in 2020, I intended to make the Tidings a place of refuge. Readers come here not looking for controversy or upset but for encouragement in a world that is already difficult to live in.

Surely, we made some mistakes in the past three years, and we may have troubled you with what we said in an article. Please know it was not intentional. We value all brothers and sisters, regardless of whether their point of view matches ours. We also acknowledge that we aren’t always correct, which might be an understatement!

We have tolerated, for nearly 125 years, division in our community.

But I write this editorial with exasperation in my heart. It isn’t aimed at any one person or any particular event. It is aimed at all of us, me included. We have tolerated, for nearly 125 years, division in our community. I’ve previously tiptoed around the need for unity and trust in past editorials. I didn’t want to offend. But this month, I want to be more direct. 

It is really quite inexcusable that we still find ourselves divided or estranged in our fellowship. I won’t comment on the reasons for this or the potential solutions. But I am beginning to think that maybe we just don’t assign the proper value to unity as a first principle. We tolerate behaviors that we should condemn. We allow words and actions to reflect a secular vernacular, not the spirit of Christ.

As a young brother, I held a naïve level of certainty that we would have worked out our differences by now. Our entire community is one of the rarest on earth. We are aligned on the fundamentals of Scripture. Please don’t let anyone tell you differently. Those engaged in unity discussions today share the same hope of Israel.

I need not tell you what we are losing every day over division. It ruptures households. It denies access to loved ones. It weakens our outreach. It sours our young people. It fails to give honor to our Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone loses. Everyone.

Paul spent a good chunk of his ministry in Corinth. It began with his frustrating reception in the Jewish synagogue but eventually gained significant momentum. I believe Corinth became the largest of the ecclesias in Paul’s time. The ecclesia was an amalgam of Jews and Gentiles. The city was fully immersed in idol worship and pagan behaviors. Many of Paul’s strongest allies in the Truth worked there–Apollos, Peter, Gaius, Priscilla and Aquilla, Silas, and Timothy, each attempting to teach and reinforce sound doctrine. It was an immensely important ecclesia in the first century.

Paul began his first letter by diving right into the biggest problem the ecclesia was facing: division. He later addressed many other issues that Corinth underwent, both behavioral and doctrinal, but this one was uppermost on his mind. Issues like ecclesial discipline, the judgment of others, fornication, and adultery, and idolatry were not selected as the most pressing issues. Division was.

Paul noted there had been reports of “contentions” (ESV “quarreling”) within the ecclesia. Later, Paul adds:

For you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? (1 Cor 3:3 NLT).

A huge part of why brothers and sisters can’t achieve unity is for this reason. We migrate from being people of the spirit of Christ to acting “like people of the world.” We revert to what feels comfortable to the flesh but is opposed to the Spirit. We hear “us and them” statements that place others in a bad light, often devoid of facts. We certainly are not on the right track when we indict or denigrate a brother or sister in Christ, and we should not tolerate this behavior when it happens. 

In Corinth, members were identifying themselves with human leaders. This stance is common for people to adopt. We often are impressed with the charisma or leadership some show, but sometimes they lead us away from truth, not to it. The Corinthians no doubt placed a value on whose “camp” they were in. But there is zero benefit in alignment with any other than the Lord Jesus Christ. None of these impressive men in Corinth had died for them. Brothers and sisters weren’t baptized into their names. The only alignment of believers is to be in Jesus Christ. We would do well to make this our only identification today.

I am sure you, too, have reached the end of your patience with our separations. Brethren on other continents watch us with great sadness as they see North Americans continuing to be laden with this stain. The Tidings proposes that we all make unity a top priority in 2024. If you are in an ecclesia that is talking with others to achieve unity, please continue. If you aren’t, please start. None of us knows how to make this all work, but the LORD does. Our LORD God provided Daniel with the ability to be a “dissolver of knots.”1  (Dan 5:12). It wasn’t from his own capabilities but by what was revealed to him by the King of Heaven. We seem to have a few knots that need dissolving.

Here’s how we might get there. It begins with a community-wide commitment to prayer on this issue. Pray for it in your own home. Make your petitions as an ecclesia. Let’s pray for unity at gatherings and Bible Schools. Let us all ask our Heavenly Father to show us how to dissolve the knots. On the way, let’s not tolerate but rebuke any behavior inconsistent with that goal. Let’s speak highly of one another, regardless of the other’s current point of view. 

We know that our Almighty God wants us to be one. We know that the first principles are an essential part of fellowship and important to get right. Further, we know that only our God knows the pathway to accomplish reconciliation. Only our God knows what is in a man’s heart. Let’s stop relying on our own capabilities and trust in Him. Let’s ask Him to direct us as we offer earnest and ongoing prayers. Let’s seek to build trust and understanding and break down barriers of communication and distrust. 

One hundred and twenty-five years is enough! Let’s get together as a community without anyone stopping us from this pursuit. We deserve better. The Lord Jesus, who prayed, “That they all may be one” (John 17:21), deserves better.

My love to you all in 2024. May our gracious heavenly Father bring us all together this year.

Dave Jennings

  1. The KJV Oxford margin offers this alternative—“dissolver of knots” rather than “dissolver of doubts.”
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John Laben
5 months ago

Thank you Dave, well said. The application of the command of our Lord Jesus Christ to “love one another” should be the first of first principles for those who seek to be part of the body of Christ.

Norm Fadelle
5 months ago

Excellent article, Dave.

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