READ: 2 Chronicles 10-12, Psalm 129, Mark 12, James 1
Change of leadership can lead to both unity and schism. Rehoboam inherited some followers who were a little disgruntled and had the opportunity to win them over (2 Chron. 10:7). Taking the poor advice of younger advisors however, Rehoboam lost ten of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Thank the Lord for the grey headed among us!) He musters an army to subdue the rebellious but God surprisingly says: “You shall not go up to fight against your brethren…for this thing is from me” (2 Chron. 11:4).
We understand God is not for rebellion, and we understand God prefers brothers to be unified, so this evidently must be God’s accommodation to man’s stubbornness. It would have been better if Rehoboam would have won over the disgruntled, if Abraham and Lot’s herders could get along, if Jacob would not have deceived Esau, if Paul and John Mark could have resolved their differences–but when optimal agreement is not reached, God is not in favor of brothers going to war.
There is a beautiful dignity in conceding to our brothers and sisters after a wrong choice has been made. In life and ministry we constantly encounter second best choices–both our own and others. Redemption often depends on the reaction of the one insulted or offended. Often division becomes bitter when the wronged party reacts to the poor choice of a brother and decides to go to war to protect territory. There is another way to win our brother: aid him in his poor choice. Choices are often made out of selfishness and fear, one of the wisest responses we can have is akin to that of Gamaliel–non-resistance. If it is of God, it will last; if it is not of God, it will fade.
We can even go one step further. This is the Jesus way: we can help those who make a poor primary choice (or at least a choice that does not sit well with us) that seems to duplicate resources. We can offer our love and support and encouragement and help. It does not matter that they did not consult us; it does not matter that they chose to divide themselves away; and it does not matter that they set up camp in “our” territory (though we often forget who this earth belongs to anyway). When we bless and serve and supply their needs, when we decide to “not go to war against our brother,” God often turns the scenario into something mutually life-giving. There is something incredibly joyous in being secure enough to bless others’ disagreeable choices.
Humility is strengthened when we bless those who make choices that pain us. When brothers and sisters leave for another ministry, team, agency, or church across town, when new ministries move in to your sphere and siphon off your people, when alliances break down and collaborations falter, we have an incredible opportunity to live out the division in the spirit of Jesus. Of course God prefers the unity of the brethren, but when it is threatened, the way to regain it is not by being defensive, but by serving and loving the brothers and sisters who have departed. Often we can win their heart, but even if we don’t our spirits are clear and free, and God can bless the work of our hands.