I LOVE the Church! So does Jesus! It belongs to Him. He laid down His life for the Church. He sent the Holy Spirit to animate, empower, and bless it. Jesus LOVES His Church, no question!

Of course, we know the Church is made up of all His saints, the holy ones, made holy by the sprinkling of His blood, His once-for-all sacrifice for sins. Yet, it is often in very unholy ways that many believers refuse to commit to a local family of believers. They refuse to bring themselves into mutually-submitted, covenant relationships within God’s family. This is one of satan’s oldest plans.

From as early as the first family, we see division and discord in the manner of jealousy that resulted in Cain killing Abel (Gen. 4). There were issues between the offspring of Noah; Noah’s drunkenness and nakedness was exposed by his son Ham, resulting in Ham being cursed (Gen. 9). Then, as God was beginning to create a new nation through Abraham, Abraham grew exceedingly wealthy with many servants, as did his family member Lot, but Abraham and Lot separated due to division and fighting among their families and servants (Gen. 13). Jacob’s older sons were jealous of Joseph, the youngest son, and sold him into brutal slavery (Gen. 37). These are just some of the stories that fill our Bible.

Paul gave correction to the Roman church over their sinful division: “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. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” (Rom. 17:17-19, NIV).

Keep away from them doesn’t sound very Christian does it! But Paul is saying keep away from all who cause division, all the grumblers, complainers, and fault-finders. These people are serving their own selfish appetites. They are NOT serving the Lord Jesus, despite their best excuses.

To the church in Corinth, Paul wrote, “I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder… I will be grieved over many who have sinned… and have not repented.” (2Cor. 12:20-21). Similarly, Paul gave a list of behaviors that he calls sinful acts of the flesh to the Galatian church: “Sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). We should note that people who create division in God’s Church are on the same list as idolaters and the sexually perverse. It is sinful for a believer to gossip and grumble about another believer, but particularly in relation to God’s church where it causes division in the family of God. This does not mean conversations should not happen that bring health and correction, or expose things like sinful behaviors and spiritual abuse; they should. We are seeing this happen across America right now in churches and ministries, and this is needed, God is healing and delivering His Church. But woe to people who use this as their excuse to cloak their own divisive and sinful gossip, grumbling, and complaining. God sees through all of this. He knows the individual heart and what is going on, we can’t fool Him.

Why is it so hard for believers to understand this? Why is it so hard for believers to love and commit to God’s Church? Why have so many defiled themselves and defiled their own prayer and worship, as they cause this division? Why have they not discerned their own hearts? 

We read in Proverbs 6:16-19, “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 person who stirs up conflict in the community.”  This is from the NIV. Other translations use: “detestable,” “an abomination” or “abominable,” “loathsome,” “repulsive,” something God’s own “soul despises.” 

A believer may try and justify their bad habits of gossip and division in their own heart, and even to other believers who may give a listing ear, but God hates division. It is loathsome, detestable, an abomination, repulsive, and something God’s own soul despises. This becomes an issue of the heart for God’s people. There is no justification before God for causing division in His family. He hates it. He sees through all our excuses, every single one of them.

I pray for believers to wake up out of this cold, spiritual state and to repent for damages done to God’s church. To repent from the bitter roots they have allowed the enemy to seed and fertilize with each conversation they have had that has been filled with the poison of division. I pray for mercy for these people who have made themselves literal enemies of God’s church–they would not see themselves as this, but it is the truth.

The church has not been perfect, that is obvious. But our participation with Jesus requires our participation with what/who He loves: His church. If we love Jesus, we will also love His church. We cannot truly love Jesus without truly loving what He loves: His church.

If we don’t love His church, if we avoid it, criticize it, cause division, and make excuses for why we don’t need to come into relational accountability within it, we expose our lack of love and our lack of surrender to Jesus. If we say we are better than His church, our gift is too big for it, or that our wisdom is better than the people who are committed/planted in it, we expose our pride-filled, self-exalting heart–we have made ourselves into a god. God save us from this type of false Christianity.

If you love Jesus, you will love what He loves. He loves His family, His church, His bride. Imperfect as it may be, His love for His church burns with a white-hot passionate zeal… also called jealousy. He is jealous for His church. So, take care to also love and burn for His people. Love and give yourself to His church the way He has done.