When Differences Become Divisive


In 1 Corinthians 3, Christians were arguing and dividing their church over personal preferences. Since there were no other churches in Corinth, when preferences weren’t being met, factions were formed. (To clarify, a “preference” is an opinion on an open-handed issue that is not central to the gospel, examples can include worship or preaching styles. In contrast, “convictions” are close-handed issues of major theological importance, often relating to salvation.)

Two thousand years later, followers of Jesus still  divide over similar issues. And while we don’t create factions within the church, the normative response when preferences aren’t met is to find a church that does. 

So what’s wrong with trying to find a church that most agrees with your preferences? 

The problem is,  when we elevate preferences to a primary level of importance,  we turn into consumers rather than covenant servants - we develop an attitude that says, “I’ll serve you only if you serve me first.” When Western consumerism like this takes hold, we miss out on a crucial opportunity to die to our desires and preferences for the sake of others.

Unity not Uniformity

When it comes to preferences, Jesus doesn’t call for uniformity - where we all agree on everything, from worship style, preaching style, groups style - He calls for unity, where we all agree on our convictions as prescribed in Scripture, (in other words, we want to major on what the Bible majors on.) So rather than leave or grow bitter over preferential differences, our call is to love, serve, and submit to others who think differently than you. 

When this happens, we become an anti-narrative to the “me”-centric culture in our world. We are telling others that Jesus is bigger than our preferences. What Jesus demands of us is bigger and better than our demands. 

Of First Importance

So while we must cling to the non-negotiable truths, (what Paul calls in 1 Corinthians 15:3 of first importance), we need to recognize that many issues are not worth fighting over or leaving. Instead, we should be quick to suspect our motives, quick talk to others with differing perspectives and quick to listen with a posture of humble understanding.

As we grow as a church family despite our differences, we can show the world a community where diversity is embraced without being divisive.

  • Do you have any preferences you are lifting up as first importance?

  • In what ways can you die to self to better love, serve, and submit to others?