Why do we embrace division at the slightest hint of disagreement, eager to assign black hats instead of extending charity to people who disagree with us on isolated matters? Definitely, we must separate from those who seriously deviate from sound doctrine. I don’t advocate partnering with folks like Beth Moore or Rick Warren. And I’m cautious of certain people in the Reformed camp who make multiple compromises that suggest a doctrinal slide.
To some extent, division is necessary, and even commanded in Scripture. 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 clearly instruct us to distance ourselves from those who walk in contradiction to the Gospel. Several other passages support this practice. If you read many discernment blogs (even the reputable ones), you’ve seen all the classic verses on this topic.
And I’ll go on record as encouraging you to obey those verses.
Having said these things, I fear that we increasingly divide from doctrinally sound brothers and sisters over isolated matters, disregarding their overall fidelity to God’s Word. Social media, I believe, encourages attention to minutia, assuring us that God approves of division over every little issue. And I’m concerned that, in the name of discernment, we may have actually lost some of our discernment.
The same Bible that instructs us to separate from those who promote serious error also warns us against passing judgment on fellow believers who hold different convictions on secondary issues.
5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. ~~Romans 14:5-12 (ESV)
I’m not saying that we should turn a blind eye to outright error. But I believe in our eagerness to be discerning, we ironically forfeit the ability to distinguish between real deviations from God’s Word and relatively minor (even though important) honest disagreement.
Whether we admit it or not, all of us have blind spots. Someone who sees an issue differently than we do may need our perspective. Than again, we just might need our perspective corrected. Disagreements should challenge us to go back into the Word of God, humbly asking the Holy Spirit to show us the truth.
Please be careful about separating from brothers and sisters who have a history of being doctrinally sound. Disagree, basing your position on proper study of Scripture, but don’t vilify a true believer over an isolated issue.