In the Bible the word for partisanship is translated “strife” in John Nelson Darby’s translation of James 3:16 “For where emulation and strife are, there is disorder and every evil thing.” The Greek dictionary defines it as “a factious spirit.”
In English, we can use a syllogism:
- Partisanship means prejudice in favor of a particular cause.
- Prejudice is preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
- So partisanship means a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience in favor of a particular cause.
James associated this with jealousy [emulation is Darby’s word] which the Greek dictionary calls an “ardent pursuit in defense of something; a contentious rivalry.” And then James talks about “disorder” and just plain “evil.” Disorder is a word meaning anywhere from political unrest to revolution. And Darby’s word evil is the opposite of “good,” found in John 5:28-29 “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all will hear His voice and come forth … they that have done ‘good,’ unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done ‘evil,’ unto the resurrection of damnation.”
Is James going overboard here? Our first amendment supports freedom of partisanship and our court system is intentionally adversarial. The Pilgrims came to American to have the freedom from a state religion even though a single Christian Faith based on a single Gospel for all was a Pauline idea!
Should I forsake the principles by which I govern my own actions in the name of unity! Controversy is a part of life! How could we embrace all differences as non-threatening? Some ideas encompass moral principles which cannot be compromised!
Sadly, within our Christian churches we have become quite comfortable defending what we were never sure of because the goal was winning in debate not promoting Biblical truth. We defended the right of our denominational directives to exist at the expense of any kind of unity. And even if we knew this was wrong, we couldn’t seem to find a way to change. Dissension had a life of its own and there were few if any preachers who would confront it with sermons on peacemaking or love. Good pastors with a true heart for the work of God have been cast out in the quest for that larger identity as a political force and influence. We grow our churches on denominational creeds but they may be only fattened, not nourished, on the empty calories of doctrinal differences.
In the cover leaf of Dr. Lenny Evans book, “Love, Love, Love: How One Man Found Out What Really Matters” we read “Since God is love … salvation was to bring about a unity based on interpersonal love. Could a congregation so manifest this love that others would be attracted by the thousands? Could Christians overcome their polarizations in order to love one another?”
Answer” Absolutely Yes! And then others will come “by the thousands” [John 17:21].