When someone takes a public stand for truth, especially "controversial" truth, it will inevitably irritate some people. The usual response from them is that the one standing for truth is being "divisive."

It would be worth giving some thought to this word, "divisiveness." It’s fairly easy to toss it around when we disagree with someone, but maybe there is more to consider.

Godly Divisiveness

When Jesus was before Pilate, and Pilate found no fault in him, Jesus’ accusers responded in anger… "And they were the more fierce, saying, He  [They were talking about Jesus!] stirreth up the people" (Luke 23:5)

Interestingly, Pilate, in contrast wanted desperately to keep people happy… "And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified." (Mark 15:15)

Evidently, in this situation, Jesus would have been considered to be the divisive one.

Earlier in His ministry, Jesus had the same effect on people. And John writes, "So there was a division among the people because of him." (John 7:43) and also, "Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them." (John 9:16) It was quite common! Jesus dealt with it throughout His ministry.

And furthermore, Jesus warned His followers that the same thing would happen to them! He warned that even their own families might consider them to be divisive!

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36)

Of course, there are many Biblical examples of people who took a stand for truth and were rejected for it. Stephen was stoned. Many times Paul was rejected, beaten, thrown in jail, etc. because he preached the truth. Their lives followed the pattern of their Lord. They spoke truth. They were rejected. And those who rejected them felt that these men were being divisive and that they were better off without them.

Obviously, if taking a stand for truth is "divisive," then it is a kind of "divisiveness" that God is very pleased with! When His children take a stand for truth and are rejected for it, they are following the example of their Lord!

Sinful Divisiveness

However, there is obviously such a thing as sinful divisiveness. The Bible warns us of this problem in the church.

For example, Paul wrote to the Romans, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." (Romans 16:17)

What kind of "divisions" might he be referring to? He leaves us no doubt! He is talking about people who are rejecting true Biblical doctrine! He makes it plain in the verse! People who reject the truth are the ones who are being divisive in this case.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul also had to deal strongly with "divisiveness."

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1Corinthians 1:10-13)

What does he mean by "divisions" here? Again, he leaves no room for doubt. He is troubled because the Corinthians are dividing themselves on the basis of human teachers. It has nothing to do with someone being accused of being divisive because of standing for truth! Paul himself was often accused of that! He wanted the Corinthians to be united in their love for each other and in their love for Christ and and in their commitment to truth! He did not want them to be dividing themselves up over petty issues!

Summing Up

So let’s try to keep our heads clear about this "divisiveness" thing.

There may be times when a Christian finds it necessary to take a stand for truth that is not popular with other people. He is not being divisive! He is being Christ-like!

There may be other times when Christians are tempted to embrace false doctrine, or tempted to separate themselves from other believers over petty and trifling issues, or even get upset with other Christians because the other Christians are willing to boldly stand for truth. In such cases the ones who are being divisive may find themselves accusing the ones who are standing firm on the truth of being divisive!

Bottom line

Don’t ever be afraid to stand firmly for truth! When you do, expect that people may get angry with you and accuse you of being divisive! Jesus reminded us of this when He said, "Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also." (John 15:20)

We live in a day when the highest virtue for many Christians seems to be to stay inoffensive! We want everyone to love us. And of course, we must do our best to be loving and gracious in all our communications. But we must never forget that when we stand for truth, some people will not appreciate it! Again, hear the words of Jesus: "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets." (Luke 6:26)

There is a wonderful passage tucked in one of the easily overlooked books of the Bible, 3 John. It’s a brief letter of  only 14 verses penned by the now old and battle-worn Apostle John. But he gives us these powerful words of inspiration:

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." (3 John 1:4)

Stay in the Battle!