There are many things that divide believers today, but most of the time it is over doctrines and practices that are not fundamental to the Christian faith. Whilst there can be no unity with those who reject Christ as Lord and God, issues such as dress or forms of service ought not divide the church. In this study we will take a look at Jesus’ teaching with regards to sectarianism.
“And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mark 9:38-41).
The man in question was doing something good for the cause of Christ, so why should he be hindered from continuing to do so? John was dismissive of the man’s work because he was not in the company of the apostles. Jesus’ opinion was different to that of John and so many sectarians today. Believers, in all branches of the true Christian church, are apt to think that God can only work through their own denomination. They are so narrow-minded that they cannot contemplate the idea that God might use someone else. Sectarians make an idol out of their brand of religious machinery. They are like Joshua who, when he heard Eldad and Medad prophesying, said, “My lord Moses, forbid them” (Numbers 11:28). This kind of intolerance has caused the persecution of faithful followers of Christ throughout the centuries.
Intolerance settles just below the surface in us all. We have to be careful that it does not cloud our view of the Lord’s people. We might believe that someone is mistaken on some point, but that does not give us the liberty to condemn him or hinder his walk in Christ. Our attitude ought to be the same as Moses’, “Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his Spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29). The apostle Paul had a similar thought, “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).
“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42).
Though the Lord is referring back to His teaching about being servants even to the young, He is applying it to all who follow Him regardless of age. We might not like certain beliefs and practices of other Christians, but this is no cause to demonize them. We must avoid the temptation to reject others because they do not speak and act as we do.
Sectarians think that God is only on their side, but such a notion is the hallmark of religious terrorists who engage in jihads to eradicate those they consider to be unbelievers. The self-righteous see nothing wrong in the destruction of those with differing views. God is not with the sectarian, instead He sides with those who are trodden down and ridiculed by the intolerant. Doctrines and practices which are not fundamental or salvation issues should not divide us. Those who stand for Christ and His word are with us in Him be they Calvanist, Reformed, or Arminian. Arguments about dress code (we ought to dress decently), length of hair, or whether women should wear hats in church, are of little consequence in light of the fact that millions are going to Hell while we debate the issues. Only if someone is teaching opposite to the fundamental doctrines of Scripture should we avoid fellowshipping with them. “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matthew 12:30).
“And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another” (Mark 9:43-50).
These words are a stark warning to sectarians. While they are damning others in their hearts, they are damning their own souls to a lost eternity. It is not those whom they attack, but themselves who are of no value to the Lord. Christ’s true followers are servants of all. They are willing to lay down their lives to see another soul coming to salvation. Instead of debating who has the right to be the spiritual elite, we should obey the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19-20). If the saving grace of God abides in our hearts then His peace will be there to. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
“Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not” (Jeremiah 45:5). Let us stay clear of self-glorification and promotion. The flesh can only have the pre-eminence once it has trodden-down everyone else. The Spirit of God works through humility rather than pride. We will never get anywhere with God by demanding high positions for ourselves. “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another” (Psalm 75:6-7) … “The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools” (Proverbs 3:35).