Rom 16:17-18 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (18) For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
The wicked commonly are at work among us to divide us. Specifically, to alienate us from fellow believers. Paul does not primarily mean (in the verses above) division caused over a doctrinal difference such as who are to be the proper subjects of baptism (believers or infants, etc). He means fundamentally people who alienate us from one another rather than increasing our love for and fellowship with one another, as the doctrine of Christ teaches us.
Abusers, as most of you know, are always busily working to isolate their target from anyone who might be a help to them. They do this because they want, as you know, power and control and it is much easier to control someone who has no allies. You hear stories frequently of abusers moving the family clear across the country, away from family and other friends. Abusers are divisive people. They cause division. Here is another example in scripture:
2Co 10:10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”
See it? These enemies of the gospel were working to alienate the Corinthians from Paul. Why? Because they wanted to control them and lead them away from Christ:
Gal 4:13-17 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, (14) and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. (15) What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. (16) Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? (17) They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.
The Galatians had loved Paul. They received the gospel gladly. But now…things have cooled between them and the apostle. Why? Because of these enemies who were at work among them to alienate them from him.
Have you had this happen to you? I bet you have. It has happened to me more than once. It is a common tactic of the enemy. Alienate. Divide. Then own and control – and abuse.
So let me speak to anyone who might be reading this who has been alienated from those they once loved – and who loved them. The very fact that this alienation has occurred through the workings of another person who you are smitten by, is evidence that they are servants of the enemy. Your “godly” husband has picked you and the kids up and moved you clear across the country and convinced you not have contact with your longtime friends or family members – is not godly. It is one thing to break off contact with the wicked, as Christ calls us to follow him even if it means leaving family. But that typically happens because they hate you for following Christ. The division caused by the divisive abuser, on the other hand, is quite different. It alienates you from those who love you.
So, let’s be wise as serpents here. Anyone who you have come to think is just the cat’s meow and who is convincing you to break off with those who have loved you and who love Christ, is wicked. He or she is the divisive person Paul tells us to have nothing to do with. Such a person is using their victim – serving their own wicked appetite, as Paul puts it. And when they are done one day chewing on you they will spit you out and discard you like they never knew you.