“I urge you, brothers, 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.” Romans 16: 17
As a pastor of 13 years, I have come across people who fall into this category a few times. Not just people I have disagreements with or rub me the wrong way, but people who cause division and (while may be talented in “Christianese”) create obstacles with thoughts and teaching that is not Biblical.
(Side Note: Someone who’s teaching is matching up to the Word 90% and not 100% should be a HUGE red flag….)
It is interesting to me that Paul says “Keep away from them” instead of “Reach out to them”. Surely there are those who we love, seem to have redeeming qualities, and “good motives” but are causing division and not following the Word. Can’t we just love them back to unity with a little compromise? Paul continues….
“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.” Romans 16: 18
In the early days of ministry, I tried to make everyone happy. How can we claim to be a church for those who have been hurt by church and then have hurt people leaving our church? It took one massive experience to realize that when working with humans, we will always have hurt (the need is not to harm people….. another post, another time).
People who fall into the boat mentioned above are dangerous to others. By “smooth talk and flattery” they pull others into fine sounding arguments and destroy unity, love, and relationships. Many our left in their wake that are dazed, confused, and abandoned.
In the church, I have found that such people need to have boundaries put around them when you first notice it to protect others. Then do everything you can to reach out to them, pray for them, and move to help them grow out of that place in God.
However, in many cases, they are not willing. It’s just a painful reality in this world. When they are unresponsive and continue in theses ways, Paul says “Keep away from them”. Protect others the best you can. It is heart breaking and hard but the prayer is God will lead them to submission to Him, bring a change, and bring reconciliation.
Talk about a hard teaching.
This is not just for pastors…. this is for all of us. As Christian singles, parents, couples, church attenders, coaches, workers, and the like….. watch out for those who cause divisions and don’t match up to the Word.
“Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. ” Romans 16: 19
Don’t get sucked into the game. Keep your integrity and trust in the Lord. It’s hard because the attack can be severe and effect you and everyone you love. We must remember the battle is not against each other but it is a spiritual battle! And when it gets over whelming…… remember…..
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” Romans 16: 20