Today ends our time in the book of Romans. Near the end of the last chapter, Romans 16, Paul warns about those who create division. Here is what he says: 17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. I think Paul has in mind the person who intentionally causes division, not a person who simply disagrees. Paul writes that these people should be avoided. If you’ve been in ministry before you have likely encountered some of these people. Again, I think the motive is important here. Disagreement is fine…it is often even helpful, but these people are said to serve their own belly and intentionally deceive the hearts of the simple. Those are not the actions and attitudes of those who simply disagree. I think the “serve their own belly” phrase likely indicates selfish desire and/or the desire to use disagreement to line one’s own pockets. The phrase “intentionally deceive” makes it very clear that the people Paul is talking about have a desire to hurt other people. Their disagreement will drag others down and those who are disagreeing know it.
Paul’s counsel is to avoid them. There is really no sense in trying to share the truth with them…they are not interested in the truth. They have a different agenda. I suggest avoiding them and praying for them. Hopefully the Holy Spirit can get through to them…and bring unity.