But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law,because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:9-11)
After a short restatement of the core issue among the Cretan Christians (that of judging others by the Old Testament Law, and its rules and regulations), Paul launches a character profile.
The profile in question is the “divisive person.”
Who is he? Paul describes him as “warped and sinful.” He is “self-condemned” because he exposes his motives and nature through his actions.
The behavior of the divisive person, as the name suggests, is to divide. His motives and methods vary.
I am not an expert in this area, but I have seen a repeated pattern in two kinds of divisive people in my lifetime. Paul touches on both:
The quarrelsome – He uses “controversies” and “arguments” to polarize people and gain a following. In retrospect, most of the subjects he chooses are irrelevant, but at the time his passionate appeal stirs up trouble.
The antagonist – He is less overt and cleverly employs spiritual language (god-talk) to claim special authority. He uses generalizations such as “everyone” and “always” to make his adherents seem greater than they really are. He flatters openly and criticizes privately. It is difficult to see through an antagonist because of his “warped” nature, and unfortunately, he has the ability to delude and propagate delusion.
It is hard to know which of these two are the most divisive. The quarrelsome can do a lot of damage, but at least his motives and methods are easy to discern. The antagonist is craftier and not everyone understands his game.
Again, I am not an expert, but I have discovered those who have not made peace with past failures, frustrations and disappointments are most prone to divisiveness. After all, it is much easier to be critical of others in the present than it is to be authentic about one’s yesterday.
Paul encourages Titus to “warn” a divisive person twice before cutting him loose.
Wow! That’s harsh.
So is the harm and hurt a divisive person can inflict on a church family. And sometimes, those who heed the warning enter into a time of careful reflection and emerge as new people. I always liked the way my father framed his warning to divisive people: “My word! Wake up and smell the roses!” Surely divisive people can find something better to do with their lives.
Dear God, show me how to nurture unity. In Jesus’ name, Amen.