Jesus made one of his most powerful statements about life when he was accused of casting out demons by the power of the devil. It is amazing when people hate you for some reason how they can come up with the craziest ideas of how you are doing good things. The religious leaders in Israel were frustrated to the hilt with Jesus. He wouldn’t line up with their thinking. He broke their traditions. He refused to observe the Sabbath in the way they felt it had to be done. His teaching often went against the very things they felt were important. Instead of just focusing on the outward actions Jesus went to the heart and demonstrated it wasn’t what you ate or whether or not you washed your hands right but what was in the heart that determined if a thing was good or evil. All that was frustrating to them. But, at the same time he was teaching these things, he was healing people of all kinds of illness, casting out demons that were destroying the lives of people. He gave many blind people sight, deaf people could now hear and those who had leprosy were being cleansed. So, in light of the teaching they hated, how could they explain the fact Jesus was doing so many things that were good and helpful to the people? Their answer, he is doing all this by the power of the Beelzebub the prince of the demons.
“Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?” From a common sense point of view, the charges that they were making against Jesus to offer some explanation for his powerful deeds to help people, made no sense. Why would Satan empower anyone to cast his demons out of people they had been afflicting for years? Jesus answer demonstrated the extreme foolishness of the charges.
But the principle he laid down in that answer reached far beyond the challenge he was then facing. His point about a kingdom or family or even a city divided against itself not being able to stand is extremely powerful and desperately needed.
We live in a time when division in the country has reached levels that most likely have not been seen since the civil war. It has moved far beyond the point of people having different beliefs and ways of looking at things to the notion that if you don’t see things the way I do, I don’t want to have anything to do with you and I question your character. When political leaders call for mistreatment of those who differ from them it sets up situations where some person with mental or emotional challenges thinks they are doing the right thing when they try to destroy the ones on the other side. This mentality causes us to spread the divide further and further so that there is no dialog between the ones on different sides and thus no possibility of learning, growing or changing what we believe. This leads to anarchy rather than the building of a great nation. It can only change as we, individually, personally and intentionally are willing to extend our friendships to people who don’t see things the same way we do and are willing to listen to others as well. I’ve never seen two groups standing and shouting at each other to change anyone’s mind about anything.
But a divided kingdom isn’t just a national problem. Too often the household or family stands as a divided as the nation. It is clear from the beginning that God’s intent for marriage was that two people become one flesh. This deals with more than just getting together sexually. Marriage is meant to be a place of oneness, unity, coming together and working together for the good of the whole family. A house or family divided against itself cannot stand. When you see husbands or wives that can’t see anything good in their partner and are constantly putting them down for everything, you know that the whole family is in deep trouble. Marriage problems never stop in the marriage but bleed through the whole family with the children often taking the brunt of the division. Too often then the parents go away wondering what happened to their children without having the judgment to look at their own actions to see the problem. Unity doesn’t mean agreeing about everything. It means working together, listening to each other, building each other up and trying to come together instead of pushing each other further apart. Too often we read the statement of God in Malachi 2 about God hating divorce and fail to see the reasons given that it brought tears and broken hearts to the altar and children that were intended to be brought to God in the relationship are driven further away from him instead. If we can’t find unity in the home it is impossible to find it in the nation or workplace.
Finally, the point of a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand must be applied to the church. Jesus prayed for unity among his followers in John 17:20-21 so that the world might believe that God sent him. Unity brings faith but division brings unbelief. Division at church is so common that we tend to accept it as necessary and even try to defend our actions as some effort to stand for the truth. I’ve known tons of churches to divide or groups of people to leave for one reason or another. Almost without fail the reason given will be some doctrinal difference. But in almost every case it wasn’t the doctrine that drove people away but personal problems or failures to get along with others and the doctrinal differences are simply used as an excuse to make us feel better. Again, as in the home or country, unity at church doesn’t demand we agree about everything. It demands we love each other and treat each other with respect, being able to disagree on something without challenging the integrity of those who see things differently. Honest people often reach different conclusions. But most of the time people in church are still in agreement about the fundamentals of the faith. The differences normally are found in areas of judgment and things about which the Bible’s message isn’t particularly clear. Unity matters and is worth fighting for in the nation, in the home and in the church.