Over the last few weeks, a tremendous amount of my time has been focused on a critical issue that is bringing major division to many evangelical Christians in America which leads me to ask myself, “If we, as a sub-group within a sub-group, can’t even work together, how can we possibly influence the larger world around us?”
But that question doesn’t only apply to religious groups and organizations. Watching the many divisions that threaten to tear conservatives apart hasn’t been any more heartening, and regardless of who we are, the same principles apply to all us.
Here are some quotes and principles as a reminder of the importance of building unity around common goals, not allowing our secondary differences to divide us.
1) A house divided will not stand. These words go back to Jesus in the Gospels when he was challenged by the religious leaders of his day.
When accused of healing the sick and driving out demons by Satan’s power, he replied, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” (Matt 12:25-26)
Abraham Lincoln famously used this quote when chosen as the Republican presidential candidate on June 16, 1858. In his speech, he stated:
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing or all the other.
Who could have imagined the horrific toll that the Civil War was about to take on our nation before we became all free.
Today, conservatives can hardly unite among themselves, let alone unite to influence the nation, and we know what will happen if our house is divided.
2) You need some enemies to destroy. I’m not speaking here about destroying people but rather ideologies, meaning philosophies or policies that are downright destructive to the American people.
Fomenting dissent and sparking discontent is not enough. That only leads to bad attitudes, something akin to getting people so upset about the economy that they take to looting. What possible good would be accomplished?
Instead, as Roger Lloyd wrote many years ago in his book Revolutionary Religion, “You cannot have a revolution until you have some enemies to destroy.”
If we can agree on the ideological enemies that need to be destroyed and then agree on the goals to which we aspire, we can make positive progress.
3) Don’t advance your cause by trampling on your colleagues. Personal ambition and an unquenchable inner drive might bring you to national prominence, but if your success is advanced by your colleagues’ humiliation, and if you can only look good by making those within your own organization look bad, what have you accomplished in the end?
In the midst of religious conflict in the city of Galatia, Paul gave this word of warning: “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal 5:15).
In-house viciousness leads to a dog eat dog world, and if we’re devouring each other, we’re certainly no threat to those we oppose, let alone will we be attractive to those we desire to influence.
4) Sowing dissension is listed as one of the seven deadly sins in the Bible. In Christian tradition, the seven deadly sins are generally listed as wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
But the Book of Proverbs provides a different list, stating, “There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies and one who sows discord among brothers” (Prov 6:16-19).
So, right along with pride, lying, murder, a wicked heart, feet that run to evil, and being a false witness is the sin of stirring up dissension among brothers (or as one translation paraphrases it, sowing “discord in a family”).
This does not mean that we cannot have disagreements. It does not mean that we don’t speak truthfully.
But it does mean that family unity is something to be prized, and so the person who intentionally stirs up dissension within the family or party or organization – not for the purpose of exposing problems with the hope of producing a deeper unity but for the purpose of being divisive – that person is guilty of a serious infraction.
In this critical and chaotic time in our nation’s history, while national unity seems all but an impossible dream, we should at least concentrate on cultivating true unity within our own “house,” not based on some superficial, “good old boys,” pay-your-dues, faux unity, but rather based on non-negotiable, fundamental principles that we must rally around.
If we fail to do so, we guarantee the success of those whose ideas we so firmly oppose.