My daily devotions often take me to proverbs. I like to read a chapter a day (since there are 31 chapters in proverbs and usually 31 days in a months). One of the passages that keeps coming back into my heart is Proverbs 6:16-19. In this text, the wise King Solomon is warning of seven things the Lord hates. It reads,
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”
In this passage the Spirit of the Lord, through Solomon, is expressing things that utterly upset the Lord God. For the sake of time, I want to focus in on the emphasis that the Lord placed upon the sins of the mouth. Three of the seven abominations deal with using our mouths to hurt others or to get gain for ourselves. First, the Lord hates lying. That seems obvious since, it was one of the Ten Commandments. Lying is opposite of the truth and Jesus said He was the “way, the truth, and the life.” To lie is to be in opposition to Jesus, and this is why this make the Lord upset. The second is similar in that the Lord hates a “false witness.” To understand this, picture a court scene and a person getting the floor to tell their side of the story. To make them seem bigger, and to hurt the person on trial, they speak exaggerations as well as lies. Again, this is an abomination to the Lord. The final sin of the mouth mentioned is when a person “stirs up dissension among brothers.” This is where a Christian causes division through their words by setting another Christian, or a group of Christians against each other. Dissention occurs when anger and hate is acted upon.
Did you ever think that causing dissention among brothers would be at the top seven of the Lord’s sins? It shouldn’t surprise us when we realize that in Jesus’ longest recorded prayer in John 17 He prayed for unity among Christians. To cause or allow dissention is to be in direct opposition to the Lord’s prayers for us. Causing division or dissention among brothers and sisters in Christ destroys the body of Christ and the Apostle Paul gave a grave warning of this. He wrote to the church in Corinth, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (1Cor 3:16-17) Now, some have misinterpreted this text thinking that it refers to suicide. That is a very wrong interpretation for many reasons. First, the “you” in Greek is plural. Paul is speaking to a group of people. Second, Paul calls it “God’s temple” which is a view of all people who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. We know this because Paul refers to individual bodies as “a” not “the” temple of Christ in 1Cor 6:19. Finally, if it refers to a person destroying his own body then we would have to expand it to all negligence in caring for ourselves. This means we would have to apply the verse to those who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, reckless driving, food, etc. So, Paul is not talking about destroying our personal bodies, but rather the body of Christ. The person who runs their mouth in a way that divides Christians is who Paul is talking about. They are in opposition to God and God will destroy them.
It breaks my heart, and I am sure the Lord’s, when Christians rise up against one another in an attempt to build personal kingdoms rather than stay in unity and build Jesus’ Kingdom. Having pastored for over six years and talked with 10’s upon 10’s of pastors, the stories are endless where believers turns against believers and cause division among the body of Christ. How does this happen? Here are three common ways it happens:
- Gossiping. Gossip is passing information that should not be passed – information that tears down, rather than builds up. We are all prone to this sin, but I believe the devil controls the mouths of some in the church who feel they have a right to tell whatever they want to tell others. It is not hard to tell who they are… they will tell you in due time when they come and explain the concerns over what they “heard.” Unfortunately, Christians often think they can get around the Lord’s rebuke by masking gossip in “prayer requests.” I cannot tell you how many prayer lists I have been on, that have been simply gossip tablets! Beloved, the Bible labels gossip as one of the worst sins possible. Gossip causes dissention and God hates gossip! (Rom 1:29-32)
- Slander. Slander is cutting somebody down or tarnishing their name or ministry. Usually this is when Christians judge the motives and actions of other Christians. This is very common when disgruntled Christians discuss the motives of other churches, or even of their own church leaders. It is unfortunate, but many Christian leaders feel they are competing with other leaders. They have bought into the lie that bigger is better and if others are going somewhere else, the other ministry/church/pastor/denomination must be cheating. In this mindset, the slander comes full force. Oh how I wish we could see congratulate each other for spiritual victories instead of slander against the victories of others. What would it look like if Charismatics applauded conservatives, conservatives applauded charismatics, Methodists applauded Baptists, and Baptists applauded Methodists… etc. You get the point. Let’s bless, not curse! Slander causes dissention and God hates slander! (Col 3:8, 1Pet 2:1)
- Spiritual bragging. Bragging usually happens when Christians try to lure other churched people into their churches or ministries by bragging on what is better. Instead of humility, pride is masked with a “we have the truth” mentality and one ministry is positioned over another. It is usually masked by claiming the spiritual “truth” or “experience” is better on one side or the other. (I understand the necessity of having doctrinal discussions, but when it is approached through the lens of superiority – i.e. bragging – it is sinful.) To step on some toes, spiritual bragging often comes by way of saying “I am a Baptist” or “Methodist” or “Catholic” or “Charismatic” or “Reformed” or etc. When Christians proudly identify themselves by their denomination rather than by Christ, they are on a slippery slope of elitism which is essentially Spiritual bragging and that causes dissention. God hates spiritual bragging!
I long to live in a world where all Christians – no matter what their minor doctrinal differences – speak of one another with love and with an earnest desire for each believer’s success. When one person gets saved in another church, it is a victory for the entire body! When the Father is worshipped in truth and Spirit on Sundays in any church, it is victory for all! We can agree to disagree on many matters, but let’s not get ugly about them. Jesus intends Christians to be known by their “love for one another” (John 13:34-35) rather than what we dislike about each other. Christians should be focused on building one another up rather than tearing others down… we should expect outsider, non-believing, pagans to tear down the church – not those who are part of it! Can somebody give me an AMEN? If you are guilty of any of the above sins, repent. Talk to the Lord and ask forgiveness and ask Him to teach you how to live out the following verse – He will do it!
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Eph 4:29-30.