Avoiding Divisive People

We don’t talk about “shunning” much, and this concept seems like it might be a strange topic within the theme of equipping the saints. A more accurate (and actually quite common) biblical term is avoiding. The reason this is important for the theme of equipping the saints is that the theme of unity runs through the passages about equipping the saints for ministry. The opposite of unity is division. Satan loves to divide, especially among people who crave and need unity. This is why Satan will start his work within a family. Tearing a family apart is an effective way to poison love.

Divisive people are like toxins. Jesus warned people about the leaven of the Pharisees. Paul says to avoid irreverent babble, because their talk will spread like gangrene. We know that people who inhale or inject toxins into their body get sick and eventually die. So why would we tolerate toxins within the body of Christ?

Think about it. It’s impossible to equip and mentor people if others are undermining that work by tearing someone down. All of us know how crippling discouragement is. It ruins our self-worth. It destroys confidence. Reputations can be ruined by someone with a nasty tongue. This is a huge reason why division and greed are not tolerated in the church. Over and over the scriptures tell us to avoid people who are greedy, prideful, and divisive.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul is very clear: “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. . . Purge the evil person from among you” (1 Cor. 5:11, 13 ESV). In Romans 16:17, Paul says, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”

It’s important, if we are going to properly equip one another, to teach those we equip to avoid certain toxic, divisive people. One of the reasons people get crippled in the church when it comes to serving is that divisive people are intimidating them and shouting them down. Healthy churches avoid those people and stick together to spur one another on towards good deeds.

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