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Francis Chan says Christians are sometimes called to 'divide,' but the Holy Spirit 'grieves' division

Francis Chan
Pastor and author Francis Chan delivers remarks as part of the Q Commons event, broadcast internationally on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. |

Francis Chan says that while there are times when Christians are called to "divide," the Holy Spirit grieves over how churches and Christians stay divided based on theological interpretations.

The 55-year-old former pastor of the Evangelical Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California, spoke about his book Until Unityin an episode of the "Eric Metaxas Show" earlier this year.

While Chan's book stresses the importance of unity across denominations and theological beliefs, Metaxas pressed Chan about how Christians are supposed to respond when other Christians are embracing things that the Bible has denounced as sinful. 

Chan, the author of the bestselling book Crazy Love, stressed that "everyone is fighting now" and "everyone is getting divided." He believes this division "is breaking the heart of God" and "grieving the Holy Spirit of God."

"There are people that will accuse you of not caring about truth or not caring about holiness [if you pursue unity]. ... I'm pursuing unity because that is truth and that is commanded over and over in Scripture," Chan continued.

"Now, there are times when we are called to divide. There are times like Jesus says: 'I didn't come to bring peace. I came to bring a sword.'"

If the Bible clearly states something is sinful, Chan said, Christians should stand up and challenge the sin, even if other Christians are trying to convince them otherwise. 

"There are times when the Bible is stating something clearly as sin, and we can't tolerate that," he said. "If the Bible labels something as sin, we have to get serious about those things. Outside of that, there also needs to be this deep fear of God."

Metaxas asked Chan where the line is drawn for unity, citing the example of churches that affirm same-sex marriages. 

"Yeah, that one is tough. ... It's hard to know that there are these people who believe that it's OK to be affirming. Can I call that person still a brother? Technically, biblically, I don't see that precludes them," he said. "At the same time, it can be hard to partner with them because they are saying OK to something that the Bible is clearly saying is sinful." 

Chan said believers need to discern which fellow believers they should show grace to through unity and which Christians they would be better to be divided from. 

Every Christian, he said, is responsible for treating one another with dignity and respect even when there is a theological disagreement. 

He said there should be a "deep fear of God" among believers regarding how they treat one another during a theological debate because the Holy Spirit is dwelling in every Christian.

"If the Holy Spirit is in you, I [have] to be careful even though you may say things that bother me, and you do," Chan told Metaxas. "But, I love you. ... I have to look at you how I look at the Virgin Mary. OK? If she has the Creator in her womb, then I better be awfully careful how I speak to her. And that would be the same thing about you."

"If the Holy Spirit literally dwells in you, then I need to be careful how I approach you and not just quickly label you as something. There has to be some sort of fear there." 

Chan said many believers prioritize the wrong things. Even though they might be correct about a particular issue, they talk about it passionately and for prolonged periods that "suddenly the cross seems secondary."

"There are things that the Holy Spirit will show us how to prioritize. … Is it the most loving thing to attack every little nuance? Or when is it time to draw the line?'" Chan said.  

According to Chan, "the atoning death of Christ on the cross" should be the "primary" focus in conversations among Christians where theology is being questioned. 

Chan's newest book Until Unity, which was published last year, focuses on the teaching of Ephesians 4.  

The book highlights "what keeps [Christians] from being unified across denominations and cultural differences and why [that] needs to change." 

"It really was studying the Word of God. I went to a very conservative seminary where we were really just kind of bashing everyone else except for us. Like, we were the only ones who had 'right theology,'" Chan said earlier in the podcast.

"And the last few years that I've been studying the Scriptures, I'm going, 'Man, God is really serious about oneness.' And I had said some things about His children. I've talked about His daughters, His sons, and I have to face Him. You know, I've said some things that were inappropriate. I joked about them. And I just got so convicted. And I started apologizing to people. I started getting things right, and then I thought, I've got to write on this."

Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: nicole.alcindor@christianpost.com.

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