HOW TO IDENTIFY AND DEAL WITH DIVISIVE PEOPLE
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” – Romans 16:17-20
This is a warning to the church:
THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THE CHURCH TO AVOID.
You may think that this contradicts the second most important command to love your neighbour as yourself. But it doesn’t. Sometimes services to others demand that we avoid certain people.
In Romans 16:17, Paul writes, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”
Paul pleads with his readers to do two things:
- 1) watch out and
- 2) avoid.
Watching out means keeping your eye on someone. Avoiding means “bending away from,” or to “fully avoid by deliberate, decisive action.” There are people in the church that you must identify and move away from.
Watching Out and Avoiding People – Isn’t That Judgmental?
Now you might be thinking, “Isn’t this being judgmental?” No, we are judgmental when we look down on someone as though we are morally superior to them. This appeal is for something different, something more like discernment. We must be able to identify dangerous people within the church without slipping into judgmentalism. God’s command to love does not mean that we embrace or ignore divisive Christians in the name of humility.
Avoiding doesn’t mean shunning or being cold or cruel. It’s deliberately keeping your distance and purposely refusing to move toward certain people. Avoiding divisive people means not being their best friend, not trusting your heart in their hands, not encouraging them into church leadership, not opening your home to them, etc. It is distancing yourself from them, moving away from association with them.
Avoiding is also not hiding. For example, if you see a divisive person in the grocery store, don’t duck behind an aisle. What will you do when they come around the corner and spot you? Act like you were inspecting an item on the lower shelf? Pretend that you didn’t know they were in the store? This is just cowardly deception. Avoidance is more valiant than this – it’s a clear-thinking commitment to watch out for and steer clear of dangerous people within the church.