Do you remember that 1990’s film “Seven” starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman? I had assumed there would be at least a bit of Biblical premise behind the films seven deadly sins of gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, wrath, pride, and lust but had no idea it was actually in the Bible. But then, our fearless leader Kate sent us this passage of Scripture:
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19
“Whoa! Things are about to get REAL up in here.” immediately flashed through my mind.
I was tasked with the light and flowery (YEAH RIGHT) sin #7:
“one who sows discord among brothers.”
I love the imagery and insight gained from studying various translations of Scripture so I immediately went there. In the NIV, verse 19 reads “and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” In The Message, things felt even closer to home with this translation: “a troublemaker in the family.”
It was after visiting Nelson’s New illustrated Bible commentary that I literally had to catch my breath as the conviction of what I read there was suffocating, “In a list of this type, the last item is the most prominent. Thus, the reader knows that causing discord among brethren (v. 19) causes God’s greatest disapproval. Contrast the blessing of God on brothers who live together in peace (Ps. 133:1).”
It was sickening to acknowledge that the heinous sins depicted in the Hollywood blockbuster “Seven” were still alive and active today. What was even worse – I could see remnants of this ABOMINATION in myself.
Oh friends, that confession makes my spirit cringe.
Here, let me explain.
In case you weren’t already aware, living overseas inherently carries a unique set of stressors. In fact, it has been studied and reported that first term international missionaries undergo stress at a rate of 9x that of the USA norm and most missionaries then continue to live at a sustained level of stress 6x that of normal levels (Drs. Lois and Larry Dodds, Heartstream Resources).
I wish this was just that- numbers on a page. But unfortunately, it was within the pressure cooker of this sustained stress that the ugliness of “sown discord among brothers” precipitated within myself and my first missional community. There was slander and coarse talking – and friends… it was ugly. The worst part of all was that I was right there in the thick of it. (I disclose this personal lapse of integrity not to dwell on my own sin but to, in contrast, share and encourage each of you from my experience.)
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1
I was given this verse by the LORD back in the fall of 2009. It was clear that the LORD had shared this with me for “our team in Uganda”, but I wasn’t sure who that was going to be and even worse, I never allowed this truth to root itself within my own heart and soul.
My family and I finished our months of pre-field missions training and moved to Uganda in the fall of 2012. We were immediately introduced to the other missionary couples living on our compound and we were convinced that life would be grand! As any Bible-bearing missionary would do, I even made an index card of Psalm 133:1 and hung it from our bathroom mirror.
Well, days turned into weeks, which turned into months and soon the “honeymoon stage” of our first mission’s assignment was over. The ground was scorching, the showers were freezing, and all I really wanted was a fountain soda Diet Coke!
The discord started out innocent, playful even, as one family longed to run a program this way while another contested for their preferred style. The playful jabs, unfortunately, persisted and no one in our community had the courage to take a stand. I started harboring bitterness within my own heart towards others who seemed to “threaten” my way of life. The bitterness then materialized into gossip and coarse-talking. I was a tarnished, a broken vessel who was squandering my opportunity to reflect the very love of Jesus to our beautiful Ugandan brothers and sisters.
What does one do when you are confronted with your own abominable behavior? Well, I found my direction and solitude in Matthew 5:21-26 (The MSG),
“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.”
Friends… may we love Jesus enough to lay down our divisive words.
May we love one another enough to never pick them up again.
And may we choose, instead, to fill our hearts and hands with the fruit, health, and healing that He alone can provide.