Because the hatred of Christian against Christian is such a controversial subject, I’ve struggled for some time writing this post. Part of me didn’t want to believe that a Christian could hate other Christians. But, since Christ said this was one of the signs of the last days (many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other [Matt 24:10]) it is important to recognize how this is manifest in our world today.
I was recently listening to a popular Christian radio program and was shocked by the level of vitriol the host had toward another Christian holding a different belief. A few days after that experience I came across a website posted by a Christian man attacking a fellow Christian because of his different doctrinal position. Then the final straw was a disturbing dream days later that convinced me God was compelling me to write on this subject.
It’s been upsetting seeing all the hate being spewed lately in most areas of society. It’s not all that surprising at the Communist left end of the political spectrum since most of those folks are unbelievers and hate is part of their makeup. But, to see the hate among Christians has really made me heart-sick. I suppose it shouldn’t be all that surprising since it was prophesied in Matthew 24 in the last days there would be those believers who turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other. This is just one more of those signs showing we are closer to Lord’s return.
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, – 1 Timothy 4:1
Now, I don’t deny there are different doctrinal positions held by allot of different people evident in the many varied Christian denominations present today. I’m sure there are some who would disagree with some of my doctrinal positions, as I have some differences with some others.
It’s had to forget the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials or Christians fighting among themselves in the American Civil War, WWI and WWII. Those and other events surely grieved God. There have been differences among believers from the beginnings of the Church and the fractures among believers today only seem to be growing. I’ve written about some of these differences in my post, The Nature of Man and other postings on this website. In some cases, I might call out specific people who are spokespersons for a particular movement or whose name is closely associated with a particular doctrine. But, I try no to attack the individual personally, rather refute their teaching. I’m comfortable to leave the final judgement of the individual to God.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.- 2 Timothy 4:3-4
There can be no denying that there are all kinds of movements, doctrines, and beliefs that have infiltrated the modern day church. It seems anybody with an opinion and a platform is welcome to share his or her version of truth. Some are pretty benign while others are turning multitudes away from God. Many are motivated by greed; extracting millions of dollars from their followers, selling tickets to events and podcasts, or selling their latest book or dvd.
In today’s Internet world, anybody with a computer and access to social media can spread all sorts of ideas – some pretty wild and crazy ones. I would suggest the New Age Movement gained allot of traction from the mass dissemination of information on the Internet. Then there are the false messages we get from politics, the business world, the entertainment industry, and the media. I think it’s pretty obvious that everyone, including Christians, are assaulted from all sides with all sorts of messages and invitations to join a group or movement.
Division in the Early Church
The apostle Paul dealt with these issues in the early church and encouraged unity in mind and thought among the believers.
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. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. – 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
It would seem there were some early church differences or denominations, if you will, that caused strife among the believers not too unlike problems that still exist in the church today. There weren’t schisms but four cliques, or factions within the congregation. Sound familiar? Even today there are those who relate to a particular leader and only listen to him. Others are drawn to the speaking style of another and only listen to them. Paul’s response was not to attack the different teachers, rather to bring to focus back to where it belonged… on Christ. Their relationship to Christ was the unifying factor of the church. He did not say that everybody has to think alike. That will never happen.
Paul was warning about quarrels within the church that can lead to divisions within the church and divisions weaken the church. Now, it’s not necessarily bad to have a favorite preacher, but it can become a serious threat to the life of a church to find people choosing favorite preachers, to the degree that they do not want to listen to anyone else. There are some people who minister to us better than others, and it is only natural that we might listen to them and follow them. I have some favorite preachers, but I also learn quite a bit from listening to the perspective of others. I don’t think there is any single human alive on this earth that has an exclusive lock on all truth. It is the exclusiveness that Paul is concerned about here. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. – 1 John 4:2-3
I would suggest instead of personally attacking those we disagree with, we should rather focus on the doctrinal issues instead. We can have legitimate differences and those differences would better be debated through prayerful research, education, and rhetoric instead of ad hominem attacks on individuals.
The Enemy of Christ
Christians have some real enemies and they are not necessarily that church down the road that is a different denomination than yours. It’s not that person who says the King James version is the only legitimate version of the Bible. Our enemy is not the individual, perhaps in need of salvation themselves, our enemy is the spiritual or demonic force opposed to God. The Bible refers to it as an anti-Christ spirit or demonic forces opposed to truth.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12
While there are flesh and blood individuals teaching aberrant teachings, the real problem lies much deeper. A false teacher is being influenced themselves by Satan, and therein lies the real problem. It’s a spiritual war we are waging against an unseen enemy – an enemy common among all Christians of all different denominations.
We should absolutely reject any false teaching that attempts to turn our eyes off Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith. We don’t do that by waging war on those teaching lies, we do it by prayerfully engaging the false teachings with scriptural and spiritual weapons – the full armor of God.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:13-18
Test the Spirit
If we Christians were to keep the correct focus on Jesus, we just might discover we have more in common than differences. In that bigger picture, the differences are really pretty small. Does it really matter, for example, if you’re pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib so long as you’re a believer in the risen Jesus Christ? Does it really matter “when” the rapture occurs so long as you’re taken up to be with the Lord at some time?
Now, I don’t want to ignore those teachings that take our eyes off Jesus. They must be avoided, rejected, and if necessary exposed (Romans 16:17). But, again, it’s not the individual… it’s the doctrine that must be refuted and exchanged for the truth. We are called to “test the spirits” and not just accept whatever we hear or read. Does the message acknowledge the person of Jesus Christ? If not, beware… and do not entertain that message or messages from that speaker.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.- 1 John 4:1-6
False teachings and doctrines are dangerous and should be avoided. They can turn your eyes away from Christ and the work completed on the cross, even so far as causing you to deny your salvation. The false teachers themselves will one day be judged by God. It’s your responsibility to work out your own salvation (Philippians 2:12), leaving the judgement of the false teacher to God. It’s your responsibility to read Scripture for yourself and rightly divide the word of God (2 Tim 2:15).
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.- 2 Peter 3:14-18
As the time of our Lord’s return gets closer, Satan is going to pull out all the stops and wage a full-scale on believers. We need to better understand the war strategies being used and grow in our spirits “to stand your ground”. Bickering among ourselves is not scriptural but instead one of the strategies Satan uses to divide and conquer.
“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, ‘ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. [Matthew 24:4-14]
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. – Matt. 24:24
It’s hard to imagine, but yes, even believers are at risk for falling prey to the deceiver. Nobody will be exempt in the final spiritual battles. You will either be on the receiving end of evil or the resisting end of evil.
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. – 1 John 2:18-23