In the warmth of a Canadian summer, in the reaches of a distant forest, a maple seed falls from the sky. This seed, called a samara, is a masterpiece of design that looks and behaves much like the blades of a tiny helicopter. As it falls through the air it spins, and this spinning action generates lift, and this lift keeps it aloft long enough to fall far from the smothering shade of its parent tree. As that seed helicopters down, a gentle breeze nudges it so it lands upon a nearby outcropping of rock. For a day or two it lays there, exposed to sun and rain, until a sudden gust of wind pushes it into a tiny fissure. And there the seed germinates, there it finds just enough soil to put down its first tentative roots, there it becomes a sapling, there it begins to grow into a tree. As the years pass, as the maple grows, its roots drive deeper into that crack, they push with steady and unrelenting force, until finally they break the mighty rock in two.
Many churches have been split and broken apart by what began as something little bigger than a seed. The dispute was to the church as the seed was to the rock—tiny, weak, insignificant by comparison. Yet it contained within it all the potential to eventually split the congregation in half. As time passed, as relationships grow distant, as groups were formed, as battle lines were drawn, the dispute pressed harder and harder against the foundation of unity. And then came that final inconsiderate word, that final thoughtless action, that final misunderstood decision, and as a rock breaks apart from the force of the roots, the church was split in two.
From the moment that little maple seed landed in the fissure and began to put down roots, it was only a matter of time before it broke the rock. It was inescapable as long as the sapling remained healthy, as long as it was fed by sun and soil and water, as long as it was able to continue its growth. Sooner or later its roots would be big enough to generate the pressure that would drive the rock apart. The rock’s only hope was for the tree to be torn out while it was still young, while its roots were still shallow and weak. But as long as the roots remained, the danger remained. And one day, inevitably, the rock gave way.
And just so, each Christian must be on constant watch against little seeds of dispute that fall into little fissures of disunity. For little disputes have their ways of growing into big disputes, their ways of becoming far greater than we would ever have thought, would ever have imagined. How good and how lovely it is when we dwell together in unity; how sad and how ghastly when we allow ourselves to be driven apart. Little foxes running amok can ruin an entire vineyard, little weeds left unpulled can choke out a great harvest, tiny seeds can sprout to split the greatest rocks, and even little disputes, when allowed to grow, can drive brothers from brothers and sisters from sisters.