Division. I hated it in math class, and I don’t like it in life, either. I prefer together over separate, harmony over dissonance, and unity over fracturing. The term “better together” is true, and not just for peanut butter and jelly and chips and salsa. We were created with a longing in our hearts for relationships – with our Creator first, and also with each other. We aren’t simply better together. We are actually made for together.
This past year, however, we seem to have forgotten this vital life lesson.
Not only did the pandemic keep us from hugging the ones we love, gathering for the activities we love and visiting the places we love, but it also ushered in a heightened season of division. Perhaps our tolerances for each other were lower due to all the losses we suffered, but somehow the physical distance mandates required by the virus found their way into our hearts, creating barriers that don’t belong in that space.
In just a year’s time, there is evidence of more conflict and division than I can recall in my lifetime. Political parties have no middle ground, ethnicities don’t focus on their common humanity, experts can’t agree on specific health and safety guidelines, and religious beliefs are no longer respected, but literally attacked. Even those who share the same faith are getting so riled up over issues and sides that family bonds – both genetic, as well as in Christ – are forgotten.
Satan is having a field day.
We must remember this. Where we are finding pain and discord, Satan is finding celebration and satisfaction. His plan is working, and make no mistake, this is all part of his plan. Behind all the conflict we can so plainly see, there is a spiritual element we do not. For every fire that is raging, he rushes fuel to expand the flames, reveling in the scorched earth left behind. I know it sounds dramatic. It is. And we need to wake up to this reality.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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 6:10-12).
These times require us to have our eyes wide open – to be prepared for the battle – and to understand who the enemy really is. It’s not each other. We are only a diversion tactic coming from the master deceiver, the father of lies. From the first lie ever told in the Garden of Eden, Satan has been using this tactic to confuse and separate people from each other and from God. His success depends on us believing his lies, so he cleverly twists and manipulates, often appealing to our ego and desires (low-hanging fruit…see Eve, and yes, pun intended!).
But, Jesus knew the importance of unity with God and each other as a means of protection from the enemy. In His final appeal to His Father before being crucified, Jesus prayed for His disciples and all future believers.
My prayer is not that you take them out of this world, but that you protect them from the evil one (John 17:15).
He continued His prayer expressing His great desire for all of His disciples (current and future) to become one, just as He and the Father are one. Jesus knew that there would be strength in numbers delivering a consistent message of God’s love.
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 (John 17:23).
Doesn’t that take your breath away? The Savior of the world has prayed for your protection from the enemy and for your complete unity with Him, the Father and other believers. His desire was for us to be tightly interwoven, as vine and branches, all so closely connected that there isn’t space for the enemy’s schemes.
And yet, Satan continues to scheme, studying and leveraging our humanity, our brokenness and our repeated desire to put ourselves ahead of God. That’s where he gets us….
An early teacher in the church, the Apostle Paul had seen new believers swayed from the faith with these deceptive tactics. He wrote the book of Romans to reinforce their faith and to encourage them to stand firm.
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil (Romans 16:17-19).
Paul warns them (and us) to fact-check. Make sure we know what is really true and in alignment with God’s Word. It’s so easy to be fooled by a “nice” message that is pleasant to our ears and easier to follow. It’s gets even more enticing when we think we might gain something from straying away ever so slightly, as if those “slight” differences from scripture don’t matter.
Thankfully, Paul’s warning ends with the greatest encouragement to stay the course. Verse 20 powerfully states,
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
There is no mystery in how this story ends. Victory is found in Jesus. Not in ourselves, not in our ways, not in the world and not in the enemy’s evil schemes.
We must be awakened!
We must not be deceived!
Others are not our enemy.
It’s a lie from a fallen angel who is grieved.
He is jealous and hungry.
He wants more power and less love.
He uses division and deception
To steer us from the Lord above.
But God is always constant.
Consistently right and ever true.
His love declares us winners.
Victory for all believers, together me and you.
Lord, keep us united in our faith and close to You. Open our eyes to see the evil schemes of the enemy. Help us to stop his division and be people who only multiply Your love. In Jesus’ holy name, Amen.