I’m going to identify a number of common ways in which seeds of discord (dissension) are sown among sisters and brothers in Christ. “There are six things the LORD hates – no, seven things he detests . . . a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” ~ Proverbs 6:16, 19
The first is rather subtle so it broadsides many Christians when it takes place. This is how it works. One of your friends, a Christian, perhaps even a member of your fellowship, says the following to you:
“You know, Jimmy doesn’t like you . . . I’m telling you this because I’m your friend.”
Or they may say something like:
“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I think you should know that Twila said such and such about you.”
Immediately, your defenses go up. You feel insulted. Hurt. You suddenly look at Jimmy and Twila, whom you’ve regarded as trusted friends, in a completely different light.
Your friend was doing you a favor by telling you these things, right? Think again.
The problem is that in most cases where I’ve seen this play out, the person reporting on Jimmy’s feelings or Twila’s words isn’t telling you the truth. Sometimes they are spinning. Other times they are flat-out lying. The motive? It’s usually because they don’t like Jimmy or Twila and they want you to dislike them too.
Or maybe your friend is buddies with Jimmy or Twila and they are jealous that you are close to them also. So they want to sabotage the relationship.
Other times the motives aren’t so dark. Your friend has simply “read into” the words of Twila or Jimmy and thought the worst. And they are passing on to you what they assume Jimmy is feeling and what Twila may have meant.
Or they heard someone else pass on to them what Twila or Jimmy allegedly said. So they are engaging in gossip.
The person hearing such reports (in this case you) usually believes it, never thinking to go to Jimmy or Twila privately and directly to ask, “I was told that you may have an issue or a concern with me. Is this true? Are we okay?”
Or even more boldly, “Someone told me that you said such and such, please be honest with me and let me know if you said this or something similar or if the person who gave me this report is bearing false witness.”
This direct approach will get things out on the table. If Twila or Jimmy did say whatever was reported to you, you can work it out with them. If they didn’t, well, your friend is sowing seeds of discord.
When this direct approach isn’t taken, however, dissension is sown and rifts occur.
Suddenly, there’s a rift between you and Jimmy, or you and Twila, and they haven’t the foggiest idea why. They can just feel distance from you.
All because of lies, spin, or misinterpretation on the part of one person, what the Bible calls a “whisperer” or a “troublemaker.”
“A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28, ESV)
“A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (Proverbs 16:28, NLT)
So the next time someone comes to you sowing seeds of discord of what someone allegedly said about you or what they allegedly think of you, there’s an excellent chance that they are sowing seeds of discord.
The antidote? Go to the person in question directly. It will reveal a great deal.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
If your friend is sowing seeds of discord in your life, there’s a good chance that they are doing the same in the lives of others as well.