Divide and Rule (Divida et Impera) said Julius Caesar. Caesar, however, was not the first emperor to use this strategy. Some 1200 years before Caesar’s birth, the Assyrian nation effectively divided and conquered the nations of Babylon, Syria, Palestine, Armenia, and Mesopotamia. Their greatest conquest was the division of the 12 tribes of Israel. Our Old Testament documents how the Jewish people were divided and conquered, their temple destroyed, and then exiled to Babylonia. Imagine, the nation of Israel destroyed from within by its own divisiveness.
Divide and conquer is still an effective strategy today. Not in war but in politics. Media commentators, and politicians, promote the differences between right and left political systems. Society becomes more divisive, and hatred between sides grows. The strategy is just as effective today in American politics as it was for Caesar’s war plans. Whether political division is just a smokescreen for maintaining economic unrest, or the result of more sinister forces at work, our nation is being subjected to “Divida et Impera.” Turn people against each other and nations collapse. Who is driving this strategy? How do we defend ourselves against it? Who is trying to divide us and rule us?
To begin with, God hates anger. Anger injures and alienates people. It hinders relationships between people and keeps us from loving our neighbors.
(Ephesians 4:26-32)1NIV New International Version Translations – “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.”
The Apostle Paul tells us to get rid of our anger because anger is destructive to personal relationships. Failure to get rid of anger prevents unity, only creates dysfunction, and prohibits the growth of Christ’s body. Anger destroys God’s church. Anger destroys the entire concept of “a loving family.” Perhaps no single Bible verse makes this point more forcefully:
(Luke 15:28) – “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.” (From the Parable of the Lost Son)
Relational anger has become all too common among friends, marriage partners, parents, and children. Children raised in these dysfunctional environments only learn how to be dysfunctional! God calls us to live as His children:
(Ephesians 4:1-6) – “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Another reason to manage and/or control anger is that it is bad for our health. Long before the advent of modern medicine, the Bible described the mind’s connection between sin and sickness, and between righteousness and health. Proverbs 14:29‑30 declares:
(Proverbs 14:29-30) – “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”
Anger is often based on envy, a perceived inequality, driven by one’s perception of inferiority or some injustice. When envy goes unchecked, it becomes anger and can physically damage the body. Our God tells us over and over that we find good health in patience and peace. Most doctors would tell you that unchecked anger affects one’s blood and can result in disease, even death. There is an observed correlation between anger and physical illness, including hypertension and stroke, heart disease, gastric ulcers, and bowel diseases.
The most convincing reason not to be angry, however, is that anger is offensive to our God. The worst consequence of anger is not getting colitis or even a divorce but a grieving God Himself! We are called to get rid of all forms of anger because they invite God’s wrath against the ungodly and because they are incompatible with the new life God has given us.
(Colossians 3:5-11) – “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
We must avoid anger to avoid God’s displeasure and bring to Him honor and delight.
(James 1:19-20) – “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Now back to our opening questions: Who is driving this “Divida et Impera” strategy? How do we defend ourselves against it? The Apostle Jude gives us some clues:
(Jude 1:19) – “These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.”
Jude says it is ungodly people, people who have no connection with God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit. This should make sense because Satan has been teaching our world for a long time about division and its effectiveness. Just think how easily hatred can destroy a family or a country! To defend ourselves, we must defend our faith and our God together! Paul sums it up very well:
(Romans 16:17) – “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.”
In Caesar’s version of the term, he does not use the word Conquer. He uses a more subtle word, Rule. God conquers, Satan rules! In a more contemporary bit of wisdom, here is a quote from Thomas Paine to ponder:
“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”
~ From “The Crisis” December 23, 1776 by Thomas Paine
- What are the sources of your anger?
- Ideas to Explore: Family relationships, employment, bosses, politicians, the news media, etc.
- Now for the list you just created in your mind, answer why for each one.
- Ideas to Explore: What exactly is the source of the anger? Is it based on a difference of opinion? What about injustice? Is there a past experience that brings up an emotion? Be honest here too, is there envy, or jealousy at work?
- Ideas to Explore: For each of the items that stir up anger in you, exactly who, what, when, and how does that anger manifest itself?
- Ideas to Explore: Listening to the news. Listening to a political speech. Dealing with someone who is not honest with you. Dealing with someone who is judgmental. Please add more!
- Now consider for a moment, the motives of the sources that are invoking your anger.
- Ideas to Explore: Are the motives of those causing anger in you for your benefit, for their benefit, for the benefit of others?
- Does your anger interfere with your ability to make godly decisions?
- Ideas to Explore: The dislike (hatred) of one person can result in you supporting another person who is an ungodly person. Is prayer included in your process to understand your anger?
- Is there anything that you can think of that anger accomplishes that is good?
- Ideas to Explore: In support of godly values. To uphold God’s justice. What are God’s Truths that are exposed by anger? What are God’s Truths that are exposed by peace and goodwill?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations