Parting

Now seems an appropriate time to be thinking about the parting of ways.  There are many examples in the scriptures and especially on the Old Testament where people decided to part company. Abraham and his nephew Lot, for example, decided to separate when there began to be quarrelling between their respective herdsmen.  Lot moved to the plain of Jordan and Abraham stayed in Canaan. Lot went to dwell amongst the cities of Sodom (and we know how that turned out).  Abram (as he still was) was commended by God to walk the length and breadth of the land and moved his camp to Hebron. Lot’s decision was clearly a bad one, but there is no suggestion that anyone knew that at the time.

Another parting of the ways occurred  when the people of Israel, already unhappy with the heavy yoke laid upon them by Solomon rebelled when his son Rehoboam said he would greatly increase it, not reduce it. Only the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin stuck with him. Neither Kingdom was ever as strong or stable as the nation united under David and Solomon.

In the New Testament there seems to have been a remarkable degree of unity amongst the leaders of the early Church, although some self-appointed evangelists and leaders crossed swords with Paul on occasions. In Acts, Paul challenged Peter on his attitude towards gentiles when Jews were and were not present.  He also disagreed with Barnabas over whether or not to take John Mark with them as they re-traced their steps. Barnabas wanted to take him but Paul felt that they had been let down by John Mark previously and did not want to take him. Acts 15 tell us that ‘they had such a sharp disagreement, they parted company’ (Acts 15.39)

It is interesting to note that whilst Paul ‘calls out’ a number of people in his letters we need read nothing critical in them about Barnabas, even though they ‘they had such a sharp disagreement, they parted company’.

As the Church grew and spread of course, there were disagreements and divisions often arising from emergent heresies and generally we can make clear judgments as to the rights and wrongs of it all.  The Catholic Church became universal but then in the Great Schism of 1054 divided into Roman and Eastern Orthodox entities.

Then of course, from the 16Th onwards century there came the Reformation and the establishment of Protestant Churches. Not that it has stopped there, with protestants particularly prone to separating and splintering into different identities and denominations over a variety of causes.

There are occasions, of course, when people manage to disagree and to part on good terms, recognising each other still as brothers and sisters in Christ.  That certainly should be the case when people have not acted immorally in any way and not advocated any clear heresy.  Different views of on how things should be done, or on decisions to be made should not overwrite either past experiences of fellowship or a shared hope in Christ.