Dealing with Dissension

New Martyr Philosophus of St. Petersburg

New Martyr Philosophus of St. Petersburg

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
Christ is in our midst!

The Church is supposed to be a community of people united by the Spirit of God. While this is what it is supposed to be, sometimes churches have problems. Pride, gossip, slander, malice, deception, etc. can all come in and do harm to the "Bride" of Christ, the Church.

While it may seem surprising to some that there would be evil people in the church, those who have been around longer know the sad reality of it. We are usually not shocked when we find non-Christians that do not like us and cause trouble. We usually are shocked when people who profess to be Christians and love Christ act in very evil ways and make every attempt to disrupt the fellowship of the church. Saint Paul had been in ministry long enough to not only know God's warnings about this, but to experience it himself. Here is verses 17 and 18 he cautions the Romans about those who would cause dissension and gives them some brief instructions on how to deal with such people.

"Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting."

Saint Paul reminds us to take precaution of keeping our "eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrance contrary to the teaching..." The verb translated here as "keep our eye on," means to "observe" or "scrutinize" by directing our attention to it. Here it is used in a negative sense in carefully watching the behavior and words of others in order to protect the church from those who turn out to be evil. The ungodliness that marks those Saint Paul wants us to keep our eye on are "those who cause dissensions and hindrance..."

"Dissension" (διχοστασία) means "division," or "disunity" in the parish. It would seem to have a bit of a "political" sense to it in that it results in party divisions within the church. People take sides against each other based more on personal affiliations than differing in carefully thought out convictions. It was a serious problem in the Corinthian Church which had split into factions over personal issues, pride, jealousy and selfishness.  

There must be a clear distinction between those who are following and are obedient to Our Lord Jesus Christ and those who are not! Don't be naive and unsuspecting. Saint Paul warns the Galatians, who were being disturbed by some who were distorting the truth.

Their sinister attitude is not to acknowledge the Parish Priest as the spiritual head of the local church and to offer him the appropriate respect. Instead, they arrogantly and disobediently attempt to undermine his Priestly Office and Ministry.

The solution to all of the above is to follow Saint Paul's admonition. He tells them that they should "earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all" (1 Corinthians 12:31). He tells them that they are all part of the body, that is the body of Christ, and they should use their gifts for the edification of the body and the glorification of Christ. 

So, here's the solution:

"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of Angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal...Love is patient and kind is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude it does not demand its own way, it is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance...Three things will last forever--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love (agape)" (1 Corinthians 13).

After all, Jesus did say, "By this everyone will know that you are My Disciples, if you love one another" (St. John 13:35). When we get love right, we will see amazing things happen in our lives and in the lives of those around us. In everything, let's choose to love, every time.

In Christ,

+Father George