A house divided against itself cannot stand. This phrase is often used to describe a political system or organization that is in turmoil because of the internal conflict among its members. Even Abraham Lincoln used this phrase during his famous 1858 speech in which he called for the nation to come together during the Civil War. But who really came up with this principal? Jesus.
In a context of being accused of doing miracles by the power of Satan, Jesus answered to his accusers:
Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.(Matthew 12:25)
What is division and what causes it?
The New Testament mentions division in regards to dissension, disunion, and schism. When one is divided, they are not in harmony with themselves and thus cannot be effective or stable. This is often seen in political systems and organizations, where there is infighting among the members which results in a state of chaos.
However, Jesus provides the solution to this problem by saying that “any kingdom, city or household divided against itself will not stand“. This speaks to the importance of unity and togetherness. When everyone is working towards the same goal, there is strength and stability. When there is division, there is weakness and instability.
The Bible says that the root of all division is sin (see Jude 1:16-19, James 4:1-3). As someone put it,
division is a result of the flesh, contrary to the fruit of the Spirit.(Source and Galatians 5:19-21).
When we do not forgive each other and harbor anger and bitterness in our hearts, it causes division. When we are focused on ourselves and not on others, it causes division. When we do not love others as ourselves, it causes division. When we are not unified, we are not strong. A house divided against itself cannot stand. We see this happen time and time again in families, in churches, and even in countries. Division leads to destruction!
To have unity we must have Jesus Christ as the head of our lives. When He is our priority and we are living for Him, then we will be unified. We will “strive to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.Psalm 133:1-3
If we want to have strong and stable families, churches, and countries, we must put Jesus Christ first and work towards maintaining unity.
A serious warning to those who promote division
The Bible warns against those who promote division:
Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.(Romans 16:17)
Sowing discord among brothers is part of the seven things that are an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 6:19).
According to Titus 3:10, it is a serious matter to be stirring up division. When someone is divisive and causes division in the church for example, they should be subject to church discipline. This involves warning them once, then warning them a second time, and Paul will go as far as to say that we should avoid them.
Let us be those who promote unity, not division. As the body of Christ, we are called to love one another and to live in harmony with each other. This is how the world will know that Jesus is the Savior and we are His disciples (John 13:35).
Why should we pursue unity?
There are many reasons why we should pursue unity. Here are a few:
1. Unity brings strength.
As the verse we read goes, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” When we are unified, we are stronger and more effective.
2. Unity is a witness to the world.
The world is looking for answers and they need to see the power of Jesus Christ at work in His church (Acts 1:14, Acts 2:1.)
3. Unity is a reflection of God’s nature.
God is a God of unity and when we are unified, we reflect His nature. (Matthew 5:9)
4. Unity is important for the Gospel to spread.
The Gospel cannot spread effectively when there is division among the people preaching it.
5. Unity is a sign of maturity.
As Christians, we should be able to put aside our secondary differences and come together in unity for the sake of the Gospel. This is a sign of spiritual maturity (See 1 Corinthians 3).
6. Unity is a sign of obedience to God.
In John 17, Jesus prayed for unity among believers so that the world would know that He is the Savior. When we are unified, we are obeying God’s will.
7. Unity brings glory to God.
When we are living in unity, it reflects well on God and brings Him glory. (John 17:22-23)
What happens if we are in disagreement?
There are times where we need to part ways because we cannot come to an agreement. Paul and Barnabas had such a disagreement that they parted ways (Acts 15:39). But even then, we are to do so in a way that does not cause division. We are to “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18).
We should always be careful to not let our personal preferences get in the way of unity. We should be willing to put aside our own desires for the sake of the body of Christ.
In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.Augustine
We need to be careful not to turn secondary issues into primary issues. We should have unity in the essentials of the faith and liberty in the non-essentials. In all things, we should operate out of love.
Practical ways to pursue unity :
1. Pray for God’s will to be done.
2. Listen more than you speak.
3. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.
4. Extend grace to others.
5. Extend more grace again.
6. Speak the truth in love.
7. Resist the urge to be right all the time.
8. Resist the urge to always have the last word.
9. Avoid gossip and slander.
10. Forgive those who have wronged you.
11. Seek wise counsel from other believers.
12. Don’t take sides.
I am not suggesting that we are to sacrifice truth for the sake of unity. We should always stand firm on the Word of God and what it teaches. However, most schism happen over non-essential issues that can be agreed to disagree without justifying a division.
The key is to always have the right attitude. Even if we disagree with someone, we can still love them and treat them with respect. We should always be mindful of others and how our actions might affect them.
Unity is important for the church and for the world. We should pursue unity because it brings strength, it’s a witness to the world, it’s a reflection of God’s nature, it’s important for the Gospel to spread, it’s a sign of maturity, and it brings glory to God. Maintain unity in your home, in your church and in your world!
Let us be those who build up, not tear down. Who heal, not hurt.
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.1 Corinthians 1:10
Are you living in unity with others? Or is there division in your life? Pray and ask God to help you overcome any division that is causing disharmony in your life.