Sunday, 19 August 2018

2 Reasons Why God Causes Separation Between Believers




There was a time, not so long ago, that I can remember pulling into our church’s parking lot Sunday morning and my stomach would instantly begin to churn. My husband and I would walk in, hear nothing, and leave empty, if not a little angry. The church was in the middle of a split and we were too close to those at the epicentre to not feel the impact of the rift. Our friends were pitted against each other and the oppressive hit of harsh words was shattering their hearts and long term bonds. From the sidelines our own hearts were broken as we witnessed the slow train-wreck in front of us. Eventually, Sunday mornings were too heavy to desire to walk through the front door. We left. 

For the longest time I wondered where God’s hand had been. This was HIS house! Why was he not working to keep his body of believers together? After some time away, and A LOT of digging into God’s word, I can finally look back and see God’s hand actually was on the circumstances. Along the way, I have found at least two reasons why God allows these events to unfold, painful as they may be. 

1. God separates to protect the humble, and humble the proud


During the time of the Judges, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25b) There were twelve tribes in Israel, and one tribe takes the stage in this example. Judges 19 tells a gruesome story of a Levite’s concubine being brutally raped, beaten, and left to die by men from the tribe of Benjamin. In retaliation the other tribes of Israel go to battle against the Benjamites. These tribes seem to be losing the battle against the ferocious Benjamin tribe until they stop to fast, pray, and offer sacrifices to the Lord. When their hearts are made right, God hands the Benjamites over the tribes and they are defeated. Out of 25,000 men in the tribe of Benjamin, only 600 manage to escape to the hills (Judges 20). If we look one more chapter over we see a key verse:

And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel. (Judges 21:15 emphasis mine)

The word breach here means a gap. By the hand of God division was made among the body of his holy nation. In this case, God separated the humbled tribes who had made their hearts right with God, from the proud tribe who had chosen to live how they felt was right in their own eyes.

Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And the people of Israel inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?” And the Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.” (Judges 20:26-28)

God was protecting those who had chosen to be obedient to his commands, from those who were tarnishing his Holy Nation. There are times when God steps in to offer protection and it looks like a painful division. He is protecting those sheep who know his voice and desire to follow it. But, as the Good Shepherd, he is removing the wolves from the pack as he providentially works to maintain his body of believers. 

Should we find ourselves in this situation, let us first take the position of a humble bended knee as we seek Christ. May we pause long enough to hold out our hurt and anger to God and ask if it was us who made the offence. Is it possible we have wandered too far out of God’s earshot to know His commands? Has our pride blinded our judgements? If so, we repent, and ask God for forgiveness. If it was not us, then we seek God and offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us.

There is hope in this circumstance regardless of which group you belong in. God did not completely destroy this tribe. His temporary breech in the tribes was for the purpose to humble the proud tribe who did what was right their eyes. Saul, a Benjamite, mentions this to Samuel when he says, "Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin?" (1 Sam 9:21) God used the separation to protect the humble from those who hurt them, but also to teach the proud who has true authority.

In the case of this cause of separation, we pray for pure hearts in ourselves, making sure our own pride is not the reason for a separation; and for the hearts of those who have already strayed.

2. God separates for the multiplication of His Kingdom


 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41)

At first glance it appears as though two good friends have an argument and decide to part ways. If we dig in deeper to what happened we can see a different side to this split. 

Back in the day Paul (then Saul) was struck down and corrected by God. He is told to stop persecuting Christians and become a preacher to the Gentiles. When Paul lands in Jerusalem none of the disciples are comfortable letting this former murderer of Christians into their circle, except for Barnabas (Acts 9). So Barnabas, whose name means encourager (Act 4:36), becomes an encourager and exhorter to Paul. He spurs Paul on in his calling, and the two become travel companions as they preach the gospel message. 

For a time, a young man named Mark joins them along the journey. Mark departs the team (Acts 13:13), leaving a bad taste in Paul’s mouth. Barnabas, being an encourager by nature, wants to bring Mark alongside him once again (as Barnabas once did with Paul), but Paul is adamant Mark not join in. They are about to retrace their steps back to the cities they came from and Paul does not want the tagalong who left them once already to be brought with them. Thus, the two men part ways via a sharp disagreement. What we do see is that Paul takes Silas and goes back to Syria and Cilicia, while Barnabas takes Mark and goes back to Cyprus. 

We learn later in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that he speaks lovingly of his friend Barnabas (1 Cor. 9:6). It becomes clear that the two eventually reconcile, or at least become settled again in their hearts over how they feel about each other. Paul also later tells Timothy, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” (2 Tim 4:11)

The unfolding of this disagreement reveals the guiding of God’s hand. God built Paul up through circumstances in Paul’s life to be a man who would unashamedly correct wrong behaviour within the churches. Paul visits those churches he and Barnabas planted as he retraces his steps and speaks boldly over bodies of believers. Barnabas, also revisits churches, thus splitting the load with Paul. but Barnabas does it by being the man God built him up to be, the encourager. He visits less hostile churches and gives Mark the second chance he needs to grow in his own ministry, thus making Mark an invaluable tool later on. 

God used the personal convictions of these two men to cause a division. No doubt, hearts were hurt as they sorted through who would go where. Long term we can see God split apart two to multiply many. His sovereign hand was at work guiding these two causing them to move apart so others could be taught, trained, corrected, and raised up stronger.

This was the case in what my husband and I were witnessing. A sharp contrast in convictions led to a parting of ways. Did it hurt? Absolutely! But, as years have gone by I can see both parties flourishing and are exactly where God needed them to be. 

If your heart is heavy-burdened over a split between yourself and a godly friend, or a separation in your church, take heart. God’s guiding hand is indeed at work. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)



Love,










photo credit: Kamboompics.com@ Pexels

No comments:

Post a comment