What do you think of when you hear the word heretic? If you’re like most Christians, you probably think of someone who ascribes to and promotes a false doctrine, like maybe they don’t believe in the Trinity or they don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God. However, this may not have been the Apostle Paul’s intent when he used this term.
The root word used to derive heresy is hairesis, which in the Greek means “one who chooses.” So a heretic, in Paul’s view, is someone who causes division in the church by choosing their own way over God’s. Thus, it is possible for a person to have completely sound doctrine and still fall prey to heresy. In fact, there are multiple Scriptures that use the root word hairesis that have nothing to do with belief and everything to do with division — these include 1 Corinthians 11:17,18 (above), Titus 3:10, and Galatians 5:20. The latter asserts that a heretic is someone who operates in the flesh, or in other words, who chooses their own ego above the good of the Kingdom of God.
Friend, there’s a reason why the great Apostle Paul was an advocate for love above all else! While he certainly warned against preaching a gospel that was different than the one he taught, he understood that love and joy are at the heart of keeping the church together. When ego prevails and someone’s personal agenda is promoted above the good of the Body, things crumble, and this is just as true today as it was then. I urge you, beloved child of God, to be a bringer of unity wherever you go, whether at work, at church, or in your home. Look for ways to build bridges to those who have different views and make compassion, mercy, and forgiveness your hallmark. When you do this, abundant life will become you! Isn’t that great news?