Summary: Satan's key tactic is divide and conquer. The church should remain united – focused on the task ahead instead of the trivialities of disagreement.
In a Peanuts cartoon Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels, threatening him with her fist if he didn't. Linus asks, “What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?”
Lucy replies, “These five fingers. Individually they're nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.”
Linus asks, “Which channel do you want?” Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, “Why can't you guys get organized like that?”
From its earliest days, the church has faced difficulty with quarrels and strife. Satan has sought to conquer the kingdom of Christ by one key tactic: divide and conquer. Although he attacks from the outside as well, the devil’s favorite tactic is to get the members of a local congregation to fight among themselves. He knows that if he can get us inwardly focused instead of outwardly focused on our mission, he can derail the work that Christ has called us to do.
On the night before he went to the cross, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. The Gospel of John gives us some insight into what he prayed about. A goodly portion of what John records from that prayer session deals with Christ’s prayer that the church should remain united – focused on the task ahead instead of the trivialities of disagreement.
Jn. 17:16-23 – “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
God doesn’t like division within the ranks of his people. Prov. 6:16-19 – There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
So Paul advises us to avoid it. 1 Cor. 1:10 – I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
The core principle is that as Christ’s followers, we should be united as one the same way God is united as one. For observant Jews, there is one verse of scripture that they use every morning to start their day and end their day – when they wake up and go to bed. It’s also the verse that gets spoken by them at every synagogue service. There is even evidence that many of them would speak it as they were led to their deaths in the Nazi concentration camps during WW II. It’s Deut. 6:4 – “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
Jesus’ desire is that we would share in the oneness that he had with the Father. He prayed in Jn. 17:21 – “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us…” God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit yet they are not divided but united as one. So should the church of Christ be, as well.
Paul would write to the church at Ephesus in Eph. 4:2-5 – Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
There are some things that hinder unity. I’m only mentioning a short list but these three things seem to cover the core problems.