I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep your eyes on those who cause dissensions and create obstacles or introduce temptations to commit sin, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned. Turn away from them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites and base desires. By smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
Sometimes in life we are thrust into rather dangerous situations. Probably the most dangerous for me was spending a few days on safari in Kenya. We were a large group and had been traveling in multiple vehicles. One of the safari vans got stuck in the mud, and everyone had to get out and help get the vehicle back on the road. Some were asked to push the van, and others were asked to watch for lions in the tall grass. I could not believe my ears when I heard those instructions, but then I considered our surroundings. Yes, we were there to take in the beauty and majesty of the landscape and the wildlife, but we could not be so naive as to ignore the real dangers that existed out there. It was not necessarily safe at all times. Unfortunately, we also must watch for lions even within our own Church.
There is a reason that we are instructed in scripture to be as innocent as doves but as shrewd as serpents. The devil seeks those he can devour; his goal is to steal, kill and destroy. Although our expectation is that those in the church would desire to live as Christ, there are some who also seek those they can devour. Individuals who cause division and strife among the brethren are looking to destroy relationships and create discord, and we must be wise enough to discern when this is happening. These are people who do not share our goal of walking in Christ and accomplishing his purposes. As today’s scripture tells us, these are people who are looking only to satisfy their own desires and purposes. In our innocence, we are to love without condition. But in our shrewdness, we are to identify the roaring lions among us and remove ourselves from them so that we can be in a place of safety.
Among the beauty that is God’s Church we must be careful to identify those who bring danger and seek to cause damage. For many of us, this is simply not what we expect to find within the Church. However, scripture is clear in warning us that this is our reality. Those who walk in a spirit of division will look to frustrate the work that the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish through God’s people corporately. They will be successful only when they encounter those who are unsuspecting. Our tool to combat that danger is to know that it exists and to be prepared to defend ourselves against it. Father, we ask that You give us the discernment to identify those who are looking to divide the Church instead of unite it, and continue to guide us in the paths that we should take.