Is Christianity divisive? It can be. That doesn’t seem right, does it? We shy away from people who cause dissension and admire people who are able to unite a group of people.
Well then, what do we mean by saying that yes, Christianity can be divisive? Let’s take a look at our text.
When Paul came to Philippi he came with the Gospel. He told the people that we are sinners. However, God has come into this world in the person of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross as a payment for our sins. He then personalized the message by saying, “If we repent of our sins and trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, we will be forgiven and restored into a personal relationship with God.”
While some people in Philippi believed this Gospel, others bitterly opposed St. Paul’s teaching. They insisted that in order to be saved it was necessary to obey the Jewish laws, such as circumcision, eating special foods, and celebrating Jewish holidays. This group also told the people that Paul was a false prophet and should not be heard.
Paul’s response was, “Watch out for these dogs.”
This strong statement showed that the Gospel had brought division to the people in Philippi. I can well imagine that families were divided. One would say, “I believe we need the Law of God to be saved.” Another said, “I have found comfort in trusting Christ as St. Paul has presented him to us.”
It was divisiveness that caused Pontius Pilate to be concerned about what this Christian movement could become. He did not believe the followers of Jesus were any match for the mighty Roman Empire in his day, but what could it become? Was Jesus a threat to Caesar?
The concern never went away. If there was no concern or anxiety about Jesus overthrowing the Empire, the Christian message could cause divisions among the people in the Empire and take away from its strength.
The very thought that Jesus was God made Nero anxious to kill His followers, for he believed that only Caesar was god. “Get rid of these Christians,” was the cry until 312 A. D. when the edict of Milan gave complete freedom to Christianity, and it was placed on legal equality with any other religion of the world.
Is Christianity divisive today? Though we do not like to think in these terms, we know that it is. Christians are often labeled as being opinionated, bullheaded, bigoted, dogmatic, and other choice adjectives used to describe the followers of Jesus Christ.
We prefer to be one happy family. We teach our children that sometimes we have to give in to others. Life is made up of compromises. Often this is excellent advice, because what divides us is ridiculous. That is true when it comes to the minors in the Christian faith. But when it comes to the basics of our Christian faith, there can be no compromise. This is what Jesus taught: “He who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).
What are these Christian essentials that are divisive in America today, even in the Church?
1. Jesus Christ is God and the only Savior of the world.
2. I am not basically good, but a sinner who is out of relationship with God.
3. Because of his love and mercy, God sent his only begotten Son into this world to take our sins upon him, and through his vicarious suffering and death, Jesus paid the price for the sins of the world. On the third day he was raised from the dead, and through his resurrection won the victory over sin, death, and the devil. Believers walk in a personal relationship with Jesus while here in this life, and at the time of their death are brought into the Kingdom of Heaven, and are His forever.
4. God created me in His image. This is a basic to which we hold firm. How did he create us? This is a question that can be discussed and the “how” cannot divide us.
5. Our Lord Jesus is going to return to this earth. It is commonly called His second coming. This is a basic that cannot be compromised. How and when he is coming can be discussed and must not divide brothers and sisters in Christ.
Stand firm but remember this: before you speak on the basics with strong convictions, unwilling to compromise anything, the same inspired person who was labeled a divider wrote, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs.”
Remain true to your Savior and walk in love with your fellow men.