14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. 15But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ 16Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. 17But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. 18If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. 19Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. 21When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. 22But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. 23Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
There is huge irony in this passage, for the modern reader at least. Jesus told his critics that it made no sense to suggest that he cast out demons by the power of Satan, because a kingdom divided against itself can not stand. And yet, in what way have the followers of Jesus put these words into practise? From the earliest days of the Church there has been divisions. We hear, for example, in First Corinthians of the divided factions that existed in that city only a few years after Pentecost. Mere teething problems? Well no, things have only gotten worse since then. We currently have about 26,000 Christian denominations in the world (thank you, Wikipedia!) - truly a house divided.
What difference does all this make, you might well ask. The Church has lasted almost 2000 years and currently has about two billion adherents. One could hardly call that a kingdom that hasn't stood. Well, perhaps you could. Two thousand years of brokenness and bickering isn't something to boast about. Plus, 2000 years isn't very long in God's time. In a world of increasing secularisation can a divided church stand? Maybe our two millennia has just been a blink of an eye and our divided kingdom is soon to fall.
Of course, if it has just been the blink of an eye, another way to look at it is to say that we are only just getting started. All those years of in-fighting and back-stabbing were just the real teething problems. Perhaps the realisation is starting to dawn that we can work together even if we have different ways of looking at things and doing things. Maybe we can be 'One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church' without being a monolith, but rather by a loving acceptance of each other's differences. What family, after all, expects every member to dress the same, eat the same, talk the same, behave the same ... or even live in the same house all their lives? Jesus, in John's Gospel, prayed that we would all be one. Perhaps that is the way that we will achieve it. After all, he also said that in his Father's house were many mansions. And achieve it we must. Christ commanded that we should, and to be his followers we must follow his commands. And also, of course, because he told us that a kingdom divided can not stand.