Romans 16:17-18 17 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. 18 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.
Many of us have had it happen to us. We have fallen prey to the smooth talker. Whether we got talked into attending an event or purchasing something we didn’t really need, it happens. They flatter you and tell you how perfect this product is for someone as amazing as you. You need it and it needs you. Behind all that flattery is an agenda, and that agenda usually serves the one whose mouth it is spewing from.
Believe it or not, it happens in the church. Although the sales pitch is probably a bit different. It usually starts with dissatisfaction and results in division. Paul writes here that those who are causing divisions aren’t out for the benefit of all, but for their own appetites. They are hungry for something, whether it is control or just making church the way they like it. It could even be wanting to see something happen that God has put on their heart. But when it is fleshed out in the form of division, it’s no good.
In this passage, Paul is essentially calling those people out who are intentionally messing things up for their own selfish gain. But I think that division doesn’t always have to come out of evil intentions. Sometimes, we just have a different style or approach to a situation. Sometimes we so desperately want God to do this or that and we rally others around our cause. The next thing you know, people are divided. People start talking and ain’t nobody happy. The cry of your heart may have simply been for God to move in a certain way and it resulted in division.
No matter which way you slice it, Paul says there isn’t room for division in the church. His focus in the last couple chapters has been on unity in spirit. He wants the Body of Christ to be built up. And I think it is perfectly normal for the foot and the hand to see things differently. But they can still figure out how to work together. God can lay things on our heart that we can see walked out without causing division. Even if our intentions may be good, the root probably has something to do with our own appetite. So what do we do then? I think we check our heart. We walk out what God has called us to with grace. We don’t pit people against each other. We cease from murmuring and complaining. We let God figure out how to put all the pieces together and we trust that He will in His timing.