Let me start with a question: have you ever heard of School House Rock? If you did, you would remember how they taught you about how a bill becomes a law, how the body machine works, how to unpack your adjectives, and of course how to multiply by twos, threes, fours and so on.
I have been a wiz at multiplication thanks to Multiplication Rock from School House Rock. Now we know that Subtraction is the opposite of Addition, but what about Multiplication? Can you guess the opposite of that? It’s Division.
Aside from Math, Multiplication in the church is an incredible blessing, while Division is a whole different story. Why does division happen in the church? Unfortunately, there are several ways that a church can be divided. One of those ways can be to make a secondary issue a primary one. To give a few personal examples, I have been working on being discipled and mentored on how to be a godly future husband. How did this become an issue? Well, there were several people who were more of mere acquaintances at my previous young adult’s group who would ask me “What if God doesn’t call you to be married and to stay single?”. I didn’t think it was a controversial issue at first, but apparently, it is. Little did I know; their interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7 was in contrast with how I read the bible. I learned later on that they were more Reformed, and I am more of a Dispensationalist. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that a wife will fill that “hole” in my heart (trust me that never works. Besides, if you keep that mindset, it can lead the desire to become an idol.) I believe that whoever God wants me to be with received the same spiritual heart surgery I got on February 6th, 2015. Needless to say, I don’t agree with them on their interpretation, but they weren’t willing to respect my convictions.
If there is a conflict that has nothing to do with sin, nor has any form of ideology that is foreign to the core issues of Christianity (such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone, stuff like that.) then it’s considered a secondary issue or as my dad puts it: “An argument within the family of God”.
Another example of a secondary issue is the topic of eschatology (end times). I am a dispensationalist, which means I hold to the literal interpretation of Eschatology as well as literal interpretation of scripture (with some exceptions like the poetic books and some of the teachings of Jesus.) My friends who are more reformed hold to a more figurative interpretation of eschatology (which I don’t necessarily agree with, but I still have a lot of respect for certain pastors and theologians).
Should this be a concern in the church? Not necessarily. Like the issue of baptism by sprinkling or immersion, God calling marriage or not, free will, predestination, among other topics, eschatology is a secondary issue. But what if you encounter a friend who doesn’t want to agree to disagree with you and thinks you’re dead wrong? Maybe you’re a dispensationalist, who has friends who are Calvinists and they aren’t thrilled with your theology. Or maybe you like the New International Version of the Bible and you have a friend who thinks you’re a heretic because you don’t read the King James Bible (I pray that never happens to you). What do you do when it comes to people like that? Well, you may have to keep your distance from them. After all, you can’t be friends with everyone.
Let me give an example of how one person from my home church (a Calvinist) responded when he learned that I was more of a dispensationalist:
“I have a strong aversion against dispensationalism.
It’s foreign to historic Reformed theology and in my opinion, has a detrimental effect on world politics and the livelihood of our Arab brothers and sisters in Palestine.
I believe it also has a negative effect on how we pray. If we expect that the world is going to continue to get worse, then prayer for true awakening and revival is stifled.
I have many other thoughts too… but those are the first that come to mind. Fundamentally I think it’s unbiblical and has done more harm to the church than good. Though I have many dispensational brothers that I respect.”
That’s a very frightening statement. Not only is that accusation harsh, but it also falls under two categories, divisive and defamatory. As someone who grew up in a dispensational household, I am familiar with that theology. I don’t see it the same way my friend does. These types of accusations can lead to destruction in the church. Either by church discipline, because it’s a form of slander, or by blatantly dividing the church (which is very dangerous to the church’s health). We need to be careful not to make those kinds of accusations in the church. Now if the church decided to set aside the deity, condemn Sola Fide (Faith Alone), and say you can sin all you want, then you definitely need to address that to your church’s leadership and if necessary, seek fellowship elsewhere. But when it comes to secondary issues, forget it. It’s not worth debating. Now admittedly, I love watching debates personally, but there’s no way I want to participate.
In the bible, Paul took humongous issue with divisions in the church. Here’s what he told to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (ESV)
10 I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Bottom Line: don’t waste your time debating on secondary issues. It’s not worth it. The last thing you want is a church split. Believe me, I’ve seen some gnarly church splits.
But what if your friends keep persisting? Well, here’s a great resource for you when it comes to people who can be unintentional troublemakers even if it was intended for good:
My hope and prayer is that this book will help you defend yourself from people like the ones that I have mentioned in this blog post.
To listen to the podcast version of this post, Click here.
Peace Out & God Bless!