Acts 23:7 “When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.”
They were united in their hatred and pursuit of the followers of Jesus.
This unity papered over the cracks of their deep division over their beliefs.
Paul says that he is on trial because of his hope in the resurrection of the dead and then chaos erupts. The Sadducees say ‘No you are not as there is no resurrection’ and then the Pharisees start shouting down the Sadducees being resurrection believers.
On the 3rd June 2015, Jo Cox, MP to an area I know really well, Batley and Spen, gave her maiden speech in Parliament. One of the things she said was, “What surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us” Two years later, on the 16th of that same month of her maiden speech, she was killed by someone shouting ‘Britain First’, the far-right political party.
Yesterday Trump and May, leaders of the US and UK known for our close ties and unity, fell out with each other over Trump retweeting tweets that originated from ‘Britain First’.
We can have a show of unity over many things. These can be good and wholesome projects and pursuits. They can also be powerful displays of force against many evils in this world.
And yet …
In all of these united fronts and claims and statements, beliefs do matter. Jo Cox died because of beliefs. The Isis publication, Rumiyah announced that they were waging war against Sufis. To the rest of the world Sufis are Muslims, but not to Isis. “They will be exterminated in Egypt …” because of their “…sorcery, soothsaying and grave-worship.” So this week they targeted a mosque of a north Egyptian town where the population was only 800 people and killed 305 of them and left 128 seriously injured.
It has always been so, throughout history, united in many ways, but in the end what you believe does matter and it can lead you to take a life or lose your own.
What do you believe today?
Yesterday Peter was telling me how there is a new wave of persecution happening to our churches in northern India. Church planters are automatically imprisoned for 4 years without trial if someone reports them for witnessing Christ to them. Many have been imprisoned as their enemies pretend to convert only to get them imprisoned.
What do you believe about Jesus today?
Whilst the Church has nothing to be proud about in our history of the crusades and heretic witch hunts, today thankfully this is not the case.
Yet what we believe divides us.
If Jesus is the only way, that belief divides it doesn’t unite. We pursue unity but not at the cost of our beliefs.
Beliefs are precious. Our friends will walk from us because of them. We will lose many things in this life, even our lives. Beliefs will take us to eternity and beliefs will shape our eternity.