Often it’s said that truth divides, but just as often this is misunderstood. When a church gets antsy under a humble pastor, one who’s placing himself under the Word, and tells him to quit preaching doctrine because it’ll divide the church, it’s they who are the enemies of unity. Truth divides, but it doesn’t divide the church. It divides sheep from goats. Jesus said His sheep hear His voice. When Jesus’ words are taught, and animals start scattering, the church isn’t being divided, but purified.
Have there been clumsy shepherds who unwittingly whack the sheep with the Sword causing them to stray? Guilty as charged. But in such an instance, it wasn’t the truth that divided, but the ham-fisted handling of it. Have immature sheep strayed when they should’ve stayed? Certainly, but clarity on that in a bit. For now, neither one of those things should keep us from affirming the truth, that truth unites, and false teaching divides.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:3 to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The command isn’t to make unity, but to maintain it. For the church, unity is, and the unity that is, is in Christ. Paul elaborates, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4–6).” This oneness is reality for the church. Maintaining unity means living out this reality. Teaching concerning this reality, so that one can live it out, is called doctrine. True unity cannot be had without doctrine. Deny these truths and you deny the glue of the Spirit by which He bonds the church together.
So, when the immature Christian leaves the church because true doctrine is being taught, what’s really happening is that some previously inculcated lie is being exposed. It wasn’t the truth that destroyed unity, but the lie. Achan has been hiding something, and the truth is exposing it. Truth may purify, but it doesn’t divide.
The only unity the church has, is unity in Christ—unity in truth. Anything else is just an illusion. “Unity” in indifference doesn’t count. Say two peewee baseball teams meet for the last game of the season. One team has lost every game and not one player wants to be there. Each of them is thinking of something different they’ll do after the game. Concerning the game, win or lose, they don’t care. They all have the same spirit, but no one comments “Wow! They’re so unified.” The second team has won every game that season, and they want to make it a perfect season. They’re unified. The church isn’t to be a collective of people singing, “I don’t care,” but “Jesus is Lord!” This is the tune of the church. Doctrine is music ed. False teaching attempts to alter the song. Saying truth divides is like saying that playing the right notes divides the orchestra. No! Tis the fat-headed, glory-craving, improvising virtuoso soloist who rebels against the Composer/Conductor. You can’t improve this song. Different not only divides, it defaces.