Disagreements and Division
“A shield before me is God”
Today’s readings: Jer 11:18-20; Ps 7:2-12; Jn 7:40-53
“So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.” (Jn 7:43). The crowd was discussing about the origins of the messiah and they disagreed and so were divided. Jesus himself did say that he came to divide. “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three” (Lk 12:51-52).
Jesus of course does not deliberately intend to divide. His final prayer for his people, before his passion, is in fact for unity (Jn 17:11,21). But his message causes division because it will either meet with acceptance or rejection and so will be a source of conflict and dissension, even within families.
Unfortunately, even for those who accept the message, there can be division. And so it is in groups, communities or parishes. It is not a disagreement on the message or on the essence of Christian mission. Rather, it is a disagreement on how to proclaim that message or how to accomplish our mission. It has to do with pastoral structures and strategies, with evangelization goals, with expenditure of financial resources, with integration of various ministries, with appointments to and removal from service positions, with non-traditional approaches to mission. The disagreements at times are so intense that they lead to personal conflicts, even among leaders. Some even leave the service itself.
How ironic it is that the very work of Christ is what produces division! How tragic it is that the very desire to serve God is what causes brethren and long-time friends to go separate ways! How heartbreaking it is to see deep disunity in the community or parish!
Jesus did come to bring division! But this is not his fault. It is entirely ours.
Can such conflicts be avoided? There will always be disagreements but such intense conflicts can certainly be avoided, by the grace of God. If we are renewed in Spirit and have taken on the mind of Jesus, why should we not be able to handle our differences?
We can. But it takes humility, loyalty, respect, patience, tolerance, perseverance, forgiveness, focus on Jesus, kindness, self-control, brotherly love. The less we have grown in these virtues, the greater the chances of disunity, since there will always be disagreements and the enemy is constantly stoking such conflicts. The only way for us is to live out our covenant—focused on God, knowing we are mere servants and instruments, committed to the well-being of our brethren, and growing in holiness.
Then the prayer of Jesus for unity will be fulfilled. Then our work of evangelization will be enhanced, since it is with such unity that the world may believe that God sent Jesus into the world (Jn 17:21).
Reflection/action: Consider if you have been a cause of division because of your own fault (pride, disloyalty, disrespect, impatience, intolerance, unforgiveness, unkindness, lack of self-control, failure in love). On the other hand, consider if you have suffered because of disunity that was not caused by you. Bring your case to God, whether as offender or as victim. If offender, repent, and change your ways. “God is a just judge, who rebukes in anger every day.” (Ps 7:12). If victim, rejoice, and look to God’s vindication. “A shield before me is God who saves the honest heart.” (Ps 7:11)
Prayer: “Lord my God, in you I take refuge; rescue me; save me from all who pursue me, lest they maul me like lions, tear me to pieces with none to save. Lord my God, if I am at fault in this, if there is guilt on my hands, if I have repaid my friend with evil—I spared even those who hated me without cause—then let my enemy pursue and overtake me, trample my life to the ground, and leave me dishonored in the dust. ….. O Lord, judge of the nations, grant me justice, Lord, for I am blameless, free of any guilt. Bring the malice of the wicked to an end; uphold the innocent, O God of justice, who tries hearts and minds.” (Ps 7:2-6,9-10). In you I trust, Lord, for you are a just judge and my shield. Amen.
God bless you all.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)