After Jesus cast the demon out of the man that made him mute, Jesus was accused of casting the demon out by the name of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Jesus knew their thoughts and said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:25, 26 ESV).
Jesus then asked them by whom their sons cast demons out. If Jesus was doing it by the name of Beelzebul, then so were the Pharisees. Jesus went on to explain that all blasphemies are forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or the one to come. Most people focus on this part of Jesus’ speech and rightfully so. If there is an unforgivable sin, we want to know for sure that we are able to avoid it at all costs.
But just as important is Jesus’ point that a kingdom cannot be divided and stand. There is no room for people to be divided as a family, as a nation, or as a church. At a time when our nation is so divided, it’s especially important for Christians to stand united and show the world that Jesus is king! There’s no need or reason for division. We all share the same Savior. God’s church is a people of beauty. When people see unity, healing takes place!
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.