“We struggle with the idea that Christians could find themselves on opposite sides, each side certain that his side is God’s side. Christians, we say, should be able to compromise, to agree and be at peace with one another. That may be true in an ideal world. Apparently, we aren’t in an ideal world.”

Let me be right up front as to why I wrote those words last week.  There are times that ideological or political division in the world divides Christians from one another, and we find ourselves in such a place today.  We must navigate it, as others have done before us.

There were Christians on both sides during the Civil War.  Though we don’t often think about it, there were Christians on both sides of the War for Independence as well.  Many Christians were loyalists to the British crown who saw the patriotic “revolution” not merely as political insanity but as rebellion against a king raised up by God.  To say that relationships were strained between patriots and loyalists is an understatement.

Today, disagreements over how to proceed with “the American way of life” are dividing Americans – and Christians – from one another.  Some in our church are already feeling discomfort with these matters.  When such conflicts are carried into the church, I believe I have a pastoral responsibility to address them and lead the congregation through them.  I believe my blog is a better place than the pulpit to do so.

I would note as a prerequisite that our world speaks of unity as a great good and of division as an intolerable evil.  I think the world is wrong on that matter.  Unity can be a dangerous prelude to brutality and evil (e.g. the Tower of Babel and the beast of Revelation).

Division, on the other hand, can be a practical way to preserve peace.  Abram and Lot went different ways to preserve peace (Genesis 13.7-11).  Peter and Paul separated from one another and saw themselves as working different aspects of the same mission (Galatians 2.1-9).  Paul even seems to have seen the division of the world into nations with differing ways of life protected by national boundaries as a part of God’s providential ordering of history (Acts 13.26-27).

Other times division is the spiritual and moral requirement to preserve, not peace, but what is true and right.  Jesus considered himself the “divider-in-chief” (Luke 12.49-53 cf. Matthew 10.34-39).  On some issues conflict is necessary and compromise is the wrong choice.

The issues involved in this discussion are a complex mixture of the historical, the political, the moral, and the spiritual.  They can’t be addressed in one blog.  So, buckle up.  I hope it’s not too rough of a ride.