the weblog of Alan Knox

When Disagreements Lead to Disunity

Posted by on Apr 20, 2011 in discipleship, unity | 15 comments

When Disagreements Lead to Disunity

In my previous post, I concluded that “Disagreement is not Disunity.” Primarily, I stepped through Romans 14-15 to show that Paul expected disagreements among the church, but he also expected them to maintain unity in spite of those disagreements.

In that passage, Paul exhorts his readers to maintain unity 1) by each person being convinced in their own conscience, 2) by not passing judgment on others because of the disagreements, 3) by never causing a brother or sister to stumble against their own conscience, and 4) by seeking to please others and not yourself. (Note that this last one is also written in the context of dealing with disagreements.)

Finally, and most importantly, Paul said that his readers must continually make sure that their focus is on God. As Paul says, God is the source of both endurance and encouragement (Romans 15:5) – both of which they will need to live in unity with those with whom they disagree. But, notice that it is this endurance and encouragement from God that leads to living in harmony with one another and in harmony with Jesus Christ. Harmony (unity) with one another and with Jesus Christ does not come through agreement, but through reliance on God and the endurance and encouragement that he provides.

But, if we are honest with ourselves and with one another, we have to admit that disagreements often do lead to disunity. Why is this? Well, from the passage above, disunity occurs because we are not focusing on God and because we are not reacting to one another correctly.

What do Christians focus on instead of God? Many, many things. The most obvious one is doctrinal statements. Our doctrinal statements about God are not God himself. Paul does not say to accept someone if that person understands God in the same way that you do. Instead, Paul says that if God accepts someone, then we are to accept someone. (Romans 15:7)

Along with our doctrinal statements, churches also tend to focus on their own organizational memberships. Again, whether or not someone shares membership in a certain church organization is not related to whether or not God has accepted someone in Jesus Christ, which, as I said before, is the only requirement for us to accept someone as a brother or sister in Christ. For some, organizational membership is also related to denomination. When we focus on a person’s denomination instead of their relationship with God in Christ, our disagreements lead to disunity.

Focusing on personal giftedness, service opportunities, or passions/concerns can also cause our disagreements to lead to disunity. All of us are gifted differently. All have different opportunities to serve and different passions and concerns. Paul continually warned his readers to consider others as more important than themselves, but in these areas, Christians often think their own giftedness, opportunities, or passions are more important. (This is often a problem with leaders who set a “vision” or “mission” for people who do not share their giftedness, opportunities, or passions.) When we focus on these differences, instead of focusing on God who gifts us differently and gives us different opportunities or passions, we tend to separate from one another.

So, disagreements can lead to disunity when we are not focused on God together. Even focusing on good things can lead to disunity. Good things are not God. We must learn to accept one another because God has accepted us in Jesus Christ. There is no other reason. Any other reason will lead to disunity.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-20-2011

    I disagree! Just kidding… 🙂 Excellent words, Alan.

  2. 4-20-2011

    Good stuffz. I can find no end of ways to be separate from my brothers and sisters but it takes real humility and effort to be unified with those I disagree with.

    (FYI, I still find the font hard to read, the light gray on the white background thing)

  3. 4-20-2011


    Thanks. And thank you for linking to this post and the previous one on Facebook.


    Yes, there are many, many ways to disagree and separate, but only one way to remain united.


  4. 4-25-2011

    appreciate the article brother, so true.

  5. 4-25-2011

    Hey Alan
    How powerful is this God given thought.
    Holy Spirit is inspiring many great words in these last days.These words inspire one’s heart and mind.
    As we all know, Jesus had issues with Church leaders and their viepoints but just look at what happenede through His Words and the Holy Spirit led Words of such as Paul.
    If it was not for disunity and doctrinal issues…..the Church would be in a place of true Worship and relationship with Daddy God.
    More of these encouraging words are needed to help this world of ours to know true peace.
    Blessings in Christ Jesus

  6. 4-26-2011

    John and Alan,

    Thanks for the comments and the feedback!


  7. 4-30-2012

    Once again you hit the nail on the head. What happens when a pastor does not accept a church member simply based on disagreement? Should the member be shunned from the church?

  8. 4-30-2012


    The modern concept of “church membership” often leads to this type of disunity.


  9. 9-11-2012

    I don’t think it as has much to do with focus as it does with fellowship.
    Our universal experience of disunity on a daily basis leaves most of us
    not really sharing the chemistry of relational bonding that occurs naturally in a healthy family.
    We share our lives with one anther in an event centered and shallow or sporadic way. Knowing one another in Christ means we trust each others motives and interpret their methods accordingly, because we have grown close enough to one another to finally give up being afraid or judging them. Its the daily one anothering that will get us back on the biblical road to wholeness, healing and unity.

  10. 9-12-2012


    I think that’s a great point. We often have very little vested in each other’s lives. So, when difficulties come along – such as difficulties caused by disagreements – it’s easier to move on to someone else.


  11. 5-10-2013


  12. 5-10-2013


    I liked that you focused on who/what we are focused on. Really is all about who our heart is set on.

    If we are focused on God 1st….and then focused on others and how we can bless/build them up….

    Then, we can be a unifier… and build unity….cuz we are following the greatest 2 commandments.

  13. 5-11-2013


    If we don’t focus on Jesus Christ, then our unity will be fleeting. We will always find reasons to disagree. But, think about how much unity we would have if we focused on our agreement in Jesus Christ.


  14. 10-4-2013

    Yes unity in the love and fellowship of God and because of it is a wonderful thing. Psalm 133, for where there is unity God commands a blessing. But one cannot retain unity where there is serious error in doctrine and continual acts of favoritism and and blatant self promotion and enrichment. Jesus in His word at times says to have nothing to do with those people who are wolves in sheep’s clothing, manipulators of the word of God and who are self centered and abuse the congregation. We look at how Jesus dealt with the Pharisees of His day and the sharp rebukes He often gave them, He would not hang in their circles either. There are many such modern day Pharisees who love the money, power and prestige of leading a congregation and keep people poor in wealth and in spiritual matters, one has no reason to remain in such an environment, seek a true fellowship of believers where one can grow and mature in the word and love of God, where the will and word of the Lord are held in high esteem and fear.

  15. 10-4-2013


    How do you decide which are “serious errors in doctrine”? I’m not sure Jesus’ reaction to Pharisees is a model for our reaction toward other brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps we can learn about how to react to nonbelievers through those examples. It’s interesting that there are times that Paul is harsh… but doesn’t suggest separation. Then there are other times that he recommends separation. The reasons are not always the same kinds of reasons that people use to separate today.



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