Claim: It is a sin to divide the body of Christ.
The Psalmist wrote, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! (Ps. 133:1) The Hebrew word yaḥad appears 47x in the Hebrew text. 25 of those times it is translated together. The song is a wonderful expression of unity among the elect of God. Derek Kidner comments, All Israelites, including even debtors, slaves and offenders (cf. e.g. Deut. 15:3, 12; 25:3), were brothers in God’s sight. The psalm is surely singing, as most versions have taken it to be, of living up to this ideal, giving depth and reality to the emphasized word, ‘together’.
In his high priestly prayer, Jesus himself prayed, I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (John 17:23) Jesus prayed that we might be teteleiōmenoi eis hen, perfected in one. This was not a secondary matter where our Lord is concerned. It was so important to him that he prayed specifically for the unity of his followers, such a unity that we would be one similar to the oneness we see in the Trinity. One reason for this display of public unity is so that the world would see that unity and know that God is in us. That should be enough to cause us to pause and think about our public disputes with a great deal of humility and concern.
The apostle Paul wrote to the ancient church at Ephesus, telling them that God had placed ministry gifts into the body of Christ specifically for the purpose of unity: until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:13) The very existence of the gifts of teacher, pastor, apostle, evangelist, and prophet was for the purpose of unity in the body. Of course, that unity was not unity for unity’s sake. For Paul says here, the “unity of the faith.” So, unity for unity’s sake is not the goal. The unity that the psalmist sang about, that Jesus prayed for, that Paul talked about and commanded, was a unity in God, in Christ, in the faith. And that means something very specific. We will return to that momentarily.
Paul exhorted the Corinthian believers to be of the same mind. This was a church that was struggling terribly with division. Unity was a priority for Paul. In the same sentence, he says “and of the same purpose, or opinion, or judgment. (1 Cor. 1:10) That there were quarrels among the Corinthians is made plain in the next verse. And the quarrels were themselves, petty. This should not have been the case. And it should not be the case with the true church today. The true church must find a way to re-establish its identity in the culture. Right now, the church looks like a splintered faction of thousands of different versions of Christ. The state of affairs that has obtained is deplorable. Something must be done to right the ship. My prayer is that God would raise up leaders with the right kind of wisdom and insight and courage to lead the one body of Christ as that body should be led. Right now, it is clear that there are very few “leaders” who fit that bill.
My claim, then, to state it again is simple: It is a sin to divide the body of Christ. The four paragraphs above, containing a variety of biblical texts provide the ground for my claim. The argument then looks like this at this point: The Old Testament, Jesus, and Paul all instruct the church to walk in unity. Therefore, it is a sin to divide the body of Christ.
Now, the title of this post is The Sin of Racial Division. If it is a sin to divide the body of Christ, then it is a sin for the body of Christ to be divided by any criteria apart from that which unifies the body. If we are in Christ, we are one in his body. We are one in Christ. Despite this unity in Christ, there are a variety of ideologies in society that would seek to divide the body. When the #MeToo movement makes its way into the church and female Christians begin to group together on one side and to make demands of all men as a group on the other side, make no mistake about it; that is division in the body. It is sinful, and it should be avoided at all cost. It should be avoided for the sake of the glory of God and for the sake of the witness of the gospel. Unity is a critical component in the witness of the gospel. Without it, the witness of the gospel is compromised, weakened.
There are a number of leaders and entities at present who are engaging in behavior that is dividing the body of Christ over the issue of race. Men like Russell Moore, Ron Burns, David Platt, Matt Chandler, J.D. Greer, Danny Akin, the ERLC, the SBC, and others have adopted a form of socialism that has eclipsed the gospel and the mission of the church in my opinion. First, these men have wrongly accepted the race war that is taking place in secular society. This was a war that seemed to be taking its last breath until Barrack Obama moved into the White House. Since then, it seems to have found its second wind. The same thinking that shapes the secular debate is now shaping the thinking of men in the church. And that is the idea that it is acceptable for us, as Christians, to continue to adopt the world’s thinking around how we classify ourselves from a racial standpoint. It is unfortunate but irrelevant that America, at one point in time in her history began to identify humans based on something as silly as the genetic variant SLC24A5. There is more to it than that. American history contains racial sin. It involved slavery. No one should try to deny that. It is a fact of history. But God is sovereign over all of human history. God ordained slavery. That there would be racial sin in American history was part of God’s divine plan from the beginning. We recognize this and while we understand that this does not excuse human behavior, it should help us adopt the right attitude about it, like say, the attitude that Joseph had: what you intended for evil, God intended for good. It was through slavery that God preserved the nation of Israel for his glory and their good.
Recently, the president of the SBC, Steve Gaines along with other leaders have decided to add diversity as a qualification for leadership appointments under their charge. The problem with this practice is that it is completely devoid of Biblical grounding. There is no warrant for this kind of thinking to be found in Scripture. Where it is located and widespread is politics and corporate America. I should point out, before you disagree with me, that I am employed in Human Resources is a very large American corporation. I speak from an informed standpoint. I am very acquainted with affirmative action and diversity in the workplace.
In the middle of this social justice, racial reconciliation thrust is this notion of identity. Those pushing a social justice agenda and racial reconciliation continue to divide Christians based on this variant SLC24A5. They divide white Christians from black Christians, pull out some statistics, toss out terms like white privilege and systemic racism and justice. In so doing, they are dividing the body of Christ. They are dividing Christians from Christians. They are doing this by insisting on identifying Christians based on this genetic variant. Once everyone is identified in the very same unscientific manner in which unenlightened society identified human beings, these brothers in Christ then trot out the American history of slavery and racism and remind black Christians of how oppressive white Christians were in the past. This does nothing to edify the body. It only serves to spark emotions of anger, hurt, and baseless guilt. The black Christian is angered about what happened to his ancestors in years gone by, and the white Christian is angered that they are charged with sins they did not participate in, perhaps sins of their ancestors or perhaps not. To add insult to injury, these irresponsible men then trot out statistics and “facts” to support their claim that white Christians, evangelicalism to be specific, is still entrenched in racism. It does not seem to matter to these brothers that it is a fact that statistics in and of themselves cannot be used by and large to prove racism. All of the studies that demonstrate this fallacious way of thinking is simply ignored by these men in preference for their own inferior way of thinking and their fallacious arguments continue unabated. There are a number of factors that go into why things are the way they are in American society. Human behavior is far too complex to be reduced to an analysis based solely on a spreadsheet. One has to get under the hood of these statistics in order understand and interpret the data properly. To do anything less is not only irresponsible, in this case, it is reprehensible
The end result of all this behavior is to divide the body of Christ. It does not seem to matter that the Old Testament, Jesus Christ, and Paul all mandated unity in the church for the sake of the body, for the sake of the witness of the gospel and for the glory of God. It does not seem to matter to these men that the Bible, in no way, shape or form, condones or supports choosing leaders based on some physical characteristic like melanin. It does not seem to matter to these men that the Bible condemns division in the body of Christ for any reason other than doctrine or morality. These men continue to contradict the mandate of Christ for unity. These men are sowing discord among the brothers by reminding them of sins past; by making arguments that are without exegetical warrant; and by violating sound scientific research and good methodology. Indeed, the ways in which these arguments falter and fail are too many to count in a blog post such as this. It is enough to say that these arguments should be abandoned by those who make them and soundly rejected by those who hear them.
There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers. (Prov. 6:16-19)
It is a sin to create division in the body of Christ. The social justice movement with its racial reconciliation component is creating division in the body of Christ. Therefore, the social justice movement with its racial reconciliation component is sinful.