"A House Divided"
“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation;
and a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
The late Ronald Reagan, our nation’s fortieth president, had a reputation for being a master storyteller. Often when giving a speech he would call to mind a humorous life experience or perhaps a charming tale he had heard. One such story involved a Bible-school teacher and her class of six and seven year olds. At one point during a lesson, she asked her students, “Who wants to be in God’s Kingdom?” At this point, all the hands shot up enthusiastically, except for one—little Johnny in the back row. For some reason this young boy didn’t provide the expected affirmative response. This really surprised the teacher—causing her to go to her pupil and investigate the matter. “Johnny, I noticed you did not raise your hand,” the teacher asked. “Yes mam,” the young boy responded. Concerned with Johnny’s answer, the teacher continued. “Don’t you want to be in God’s kingdom?” At this point, the young boy confidently replied. “Yes mam, I do. But not with that bunch.”
This is a charming story and could easily be filed under the category of “kids say the strangest things.” However, it would lose virtually all of its charm if this class were attended by adults instead of children. This now brings us to a very important point.
The Johnny effect
Today, it would seem that there is a little bit of Johnny running loose in God’s Church. This is because His people often make similar pronouncements concerning brethren in other fellowships—those holding slightly different views. What is more tragic is the fact that leaders within various groups actively promote this attitude—even warning their members to refrain from having any contact with COGs other than their own. Many have gone so far as to impose sanctions on their own members for embracing a teaching of another COG association or reading their literature. Others have warned their people against attending socials hosted by other groups or celebrating family reunions at the Feast of Tabernacles with them. Some will publically label former brethren as being spiritually inferior referring to them as Laodicean and even apostate. Others take it even further—questioning whether groups other than their own will escape the great tribulation or even worse, be a part of God’s Kingdom at all.
This self-absorbed obsession of targeting other COG fellowships has made it far too easy for leaders to fall into the trap of comparing themselves among themselves—even though God’s word specifically cautions against doing so (2Cor. 10:12). Sadly, despite God’s warning, the vitriol in the Church has become very much a part of its modern culture. As a result, it would seem that the body of Christ is now officially “A House Divided.”—and the number of casualties continues to climb. In all too many cases the best of friends have become the bitterest of enemies and families that once shared deep bonds and wonderful relationships with their brethren are now estranged—even their children—and all this has taken place in plain view of God Almighty.
“WCG came apart as a direct result of inappropriate leadership:
beliefs got watered down and pastors rounded up members into
opposing camps of good guys and bad guys. Each camp had to
have new infrastructure—the pastor's friends then became
new deacons and new elders with the assignment to “support”
the pastor, rather than, care for the widow, the fatherless, the sick, etc.”
Long standing COG member
Today there are virtually hundreds of COG fellowships in this condition with all of them clamoring for a prominent seat at the Master’s table. Furthermore, many of them believe they deserve that seat. They actually see themselves as a favorite son of their Creator.
The real tragedy with the current state in the Church is that we live in a time of such great promise for God’s work. Imagine how the cause of His Kingdom could be advanced if His servants thought less about strengthening their own status and more about proclaiming a message of hope to His people, and a warning to the nations. Imagine the work that could be done if the two-fold commission truly was the focus of all of God’s people. Not that a work isn’t being done—for indeed it is. But how effective is that work when so many groups are all doing the same thing? In the corporate world this is known as “redundancy.” And for the most part, redundancies are not a good thing. Not only are they labor intensive, but they can also send conflicting messages. Virtually all corporate leaders would view such a duplication of effort as a reflection of poor organization and poor management.
Now imagine what a cohesive spiritual family could accomplish in championing the hope of apostolic Christianity and the cause of God’s soon coming Kingdom. Imagine the talents that are now diluted because of the division in the body, miraculously coalescing under a common purpose—one driven by a genuine love for the brethren. Unfortunately, all too many have decided to take a different path—one that more closely resembles the world around us and less like the Kingdom that should be within us (Mt. 6:33).
A lesson from an angry nation
Recently (2012), President Barack Obama was elected to a second term as America’s Chief Executive. This brought an end to what was arguably the most bitter and polarizing campaign in our nation’s history. For over a year, two men and their surrogates waged a war of words whose wounds only served to more deeply divide us.
Today, millions of Americans anxiously watch as this nation moves toward an uncertain future. What makes this path even more perilous is that instead of a common will driving our country, an angry invisible nation festers in its midst—one that has a different agenda altogether. It would be nice to say that “time heals all wounds.” But sadly, that just doesn’t seem to be the case.
With this in mind, is there a lesson for God’s people to glean from all the political madness? Is there a message waiting to be discovered by those whom He has called according to His purpose? Is it possible that God’s Church today is playing out a similar story—one that is also defined by divisiveness and rancor? And is it possible that it will share a common end?
Since the passing of Herbert W Armstrong nearly three decades ago, a slow but steady erosion has taken place within what was once a great community of faith—one that shared a singleness of purpose. As a result, a unified core of beliefs that defined God’s people has been replaced with a collection of peripheral ideas all disguised as “critical doctrine.” Add to that, nearly every week we hear about a “new group” being raised up with each one claiming to have unique qualities that make their cause more real and their formation more just.
This is not to suggest that these groups are not legitimate Churches of God any more than it would be reasonable to suggest that estranged members of a family are not legitimately related. The point here is that if God’s future kings and priests (Rev. 5:10) cannot get along, what does that say about the Kingdom they represent? Tragically, it would appear that the Church and its leaders have become a microcosm of the society around it. In a very real sense, we now seem to reflect more of this world to God than we reflect God and His Kingdom to this world.
Speaking evil of brethren
Today, it would seem that denigrating each other has become an obsession within the Church. The question is: WHY? Why would people who need a Savior so much think of their brethren as unfit for one? And why would any leader be so presumptuous as to believe he is God’s favorite? Does anyone actually believe a parent loves one child more because that child is smarter, better looking, stronger or more talented than the others? Think about this the next time you hear someone say, “We are the only Church God is using.” or, “We are doing a bigger work, we have more members, more readers, more listeners, and more income.”
Come to think of it, who came up with the idea that income and new subscribers are somehow proof that a Church is bearing fruit at this particular juncture in the history of God’s people? Now it is true that Mr. Armstrong would use numbers when describing growth—but there was something that distinguished him from every leader in God’s Church today. Mr. Armstrong NEVER, NEVER, NEVER took his eyes off of God’s work. His attachment to growth was not about validation as it is today, it was about greater opportunities to advance the cause of the Kingdom. Sadly, now it is very different. Growth is represented as a fruit that gives legitimacy. But is that the best test? What about persecution being a fruit of legitimacy? After all, Jesus spoke far more about His followers being hunted down and killed than He ever did about them growing in prominence and wealth. One only has to consider how the lives of the apostles (save John) came to an end to see the horrible flaw in this reasoning. Furthermore, the entire history of the Church down through the ages is one fraught with persecution. Why should it be any different with us?
This is not to suggest that growth is not a blessing. For indeed it can be a great one. But if this is the standard by which God’s people determine if a group is legitimate, then we had better prepare ourselves for a real SHOCK! Perhaps we should “bone up” on what just might be around the corner by reading about the fifth seal of Revelation (Rev. 6:9-11 See also: Mt. 10:22-28; 24:9-10, Heb. 11:32-40). These passages paint a grim picture for those who argue that “numbers don’t lie,” and “the bigger the better.” Here is what your Bible says: the time is coming when the numbers are going to shrink; only the causalities will grow (Mk. 13:12-13, Lk. 21:16-17)—and that time is closer than we think!
Furthermore, who said that size somehow equals strength? The last time King David used that formula, he found himself begging for God to deliver Israel from his own arrogance (1Chro. 21:17). The point here is that while some of the larger COG groups continually dismiss the smaller ones as illegitimate and smaller groups continue to think of large communities of faith as the “Catholicism” of the work, very little is getting done. Additionally, while so many approach their calling on the wings of some new doctrinal angle, or an attitude that says, “You’d better listen to me because I’m Mr. Armstrong’s rightful successor, God’s people become more fragmented, which couldn’t possibly be what the Almighty had in mind (See: Jer. 23, Ezek. 34).
A Final Thought
Mr. Armstrong used to say that his wife Loma’s favorite passage in the Bible was Psalm 133, which speaks of the beauty of unity. It is hard to take issue with such words. Sadly, the lives of God’s people today seem to contradict them. Where there once was unity, there is now discord. Not entirely, but far too much.
Finally, although none of us are the great and powerful, we have been called to do what no leader of any nation has ever done. We have been personally chosen by the Creator of Heaven and Earth to prepare the world for a New Administration—one presided over by a Great God King. With that said, it would seem that although we may never hit 70 home runs in a season, or walk on the moon, or give a State of the Union address, we can do something that has tragically eluded mankind throughout human history. We can love one another (Jn. 13:34-35). This is our reasonable service.
"Shepherds & Hirelings"
Return to Directory