As society is presently ripped apart with divisions on every issue, the church is likewise bombarded with divisive people who are using the current cultural divide to mimic the culture and tear apart the body of Christ. Christians have to be acutely aware that Satan uses cultural moments like this in the church to separate the body of Christ. I can’t think of a more appropriate caution at the moment than to call Christians to awareness in who they listen to and how they handle themselves before those who seek the ruin of the church.
This phenomenon is nothing new, of course, and the apostles provide a lot of instruction in how to handle divisive people in Christ’s church. The apostle Paul was constantly under assault by those who wanted to undermine the message of the gospel. In 2 Timothy 4:14, he specifically mentions Alexander the Coppersmith who did him much harm in his efforts to preach Christ. Throughout the New Testament, we find no hesitation by the apostles to warn of those who were undermining the gospel ministry. Read more»
Chris Gordon | “How To Handle Divisive Persons In The Church | November 11, 2021
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Thank you, this is good reading. It also serves as a sober reminder to me whenever I am in conversation with brothers and sisters in Christ that I do not consider myself better if we come to disagree on certain points. I feel compelled to uphold truth, and while I am convinced that truth is of utmost importance, I also know that I can be deceived into thinking that I am somehow always right. May the Lord remind me in His mercy that I am fallible in every way.
This is excellent advice but must be applied appropriately. I have dealt many times over the years with contentious people in my churches who really have no interest in resolving issues so that when one complaint is answered they will instantly produce another, often entirely unrelated to the first. I’ve seen these turn into long lists, one perceived offense at a time, and avoiding these people is often the best response.
On the other hand, ignoring, shunning, or in some cases even disfellowshipping a brother or sister because they disagree with us on an issue can be tantamount to pushing a wandering sheep off a cliff; God’s power and His love are displayed not by closing doors but by building bridges, or at least by trying to do so. Romans 12:18 tells us what must be a guiding principle in such matters: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
I recently read with sorrow what the Genevans did to Louis Bourgeois (What Calvin could achieve in mitigation was, sadly, only a little), and the effect it had on his family after his death.
What he did was not in any way anything to divide the church (It was only about musical tastes). Some of his fellow Genevans will have a lot to answer for on that day.
Once again you sent me to the library to quickly research some obscure episode and this one is fairly obscure since it is reported in few of the major Calvin biographies nor in some of the more important ancillary volumes.
Near as I can, Bourgeois was imprisoned briefly by the city council because he changed, without permission, some of the tunes approved for use in the church. the council was suspicious but Calvin persuaded them that he was trying to fix some problems and that he was not trying to corrupt the worship of the church.
It wasn’t merely about musical taste. It was about the integrity of worship and fear of corruption being introduced by hired hands and outsiders.
As to standing before the judgment, either we stand in the righteousness of Christ or we stand not at all. We may all be thankful that Jesus Christ is our righteous substitute and he bore the judgment for all those who are united to him by grace alone, through faith alone.
My piano-playing, French-hymn-writing missionary friend and I don’t find Louis Bourgeois as obscure as all that, but in spite of this, it’s difficult to find out exactly what happened with him. One source says he died in 1559, whereas another source says he was in Paris in 1560. Sources agree that his daughter Suzanne was baptized in a Roman Catholic church in 1560. As he had married in 1547, it would be of interest to know how old that daughter was when she was baptized … (I assume the RCs would not have rebaptized her, although they are known to have rebaptized on at least one occasion when the first baptism had been carried out by a mere midwife).
He’s not obscure but the episode is.
If only our problem was the occasional divisive person in our church. What is a much greater problem is a whole organization of elders (National Partnership) whose every action is framed as “us vs. them”. The divisive person can disrupt a particular church. An organization like the NP is likely to fracture the entire PCA. While our church polity has abundant means to deal with the divisive person, the same church polity has been manipulated to carry out this organization’s goals without any apparent accountability.