Can you elaborate on the idea of godly division v. sinful division? -- Ed
Good question. I hope these general comments about division help clarify the issue at hand.
God calls all people in the world to live holy lives. God does not exclude anyone from this call. Unfortunately, most will choose to reject his call and become hostile toward those that do accept it. When Jesus spoke of dividing (Matthew 10:34/Luke 12:51-53), his point wasn't that he intended to cause division, but that division would be the natural outcome of the kingdom of God breaking through. (By "kingdom of God" I refer only to the age of God's rule breaking through the age of Satan's rule.) Therefore, it is not God who divides the world: it is our free choice to reject his call.
God calls his people to live in unity, recognizing all those who have made Jesus Lord as their brothers and sisters. This doctrine should be thought of as inclusive - including as many as possible, not exclusive - excluding anyone who does not exactly fit our mold. No, we do not call someone who is obviously living by the world and not the spirit our brother. But when we meet someone new, is our natural inclination to look for a reason why he or she should be excluded or included? Have we built a wall around ourselves, with each brick a doctrine that must be agreed to before we can allow someone in the fellowship? Or do we choose to overlook differences that aren't absolutely at the core of our faith? (Do we even know what doctrines those are? For more on this, click here.)
Once again, is God the one who causes the division, or is it our choice to categorize others as "them" versus "us," instead of "we" Christians?
When division does happen inside the body, it is important to remember that God does not recognize or bless either group. God does not save groups. He does not want a relationship with a group: he wants a relationship with you. God only recognizes two categories of individuals: those who trust him for salvation and those who do not. It does not seem to be in keeping with the Spirit of God to claim God's special blessing on any particular group. Usually only years -- sometimes centuries -- later are we in a position to judge who really had God's approval. For today, we must live in a spirit of unity and peace as far as it is up to us.
IBTM Research Team