A sincere and good brother in Christ recently said to me, "I get many publications in the mail, and I see faithful brethren dividing up and splitting the church over 'issues.' It really bothers me."
We were discussing the "issue" of marriage, divorce, and remarriage (a problem that certainly afflicts the church throughout the south-west coalfield region), and this good-hearted and sincere brother seemed to think that we should just all agree to disagree on the matter. I told him, "I, too, am very bothered by all of the division and the fighting over issues. I don't like it one bit." I have been preaching (as of August 2007) for 35 years, and I have seen and heard a lot of fighting and dividing over the issues. It is not a good thing to see or experience. It has always been my desire and prayer to God that all those who are members of the church of Christ be one, as He prayed in John 17:20-21 and as the inspired apostle commanded in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13. However, allow me to make a few observations about these matters that may help us as we witness and go through such things.
I heard a preacher once named Roger Jackson of Alabama. He preached a lesson called "Problems In The Church," and I have never forgotten his words. He began by saying that the church is a divine institution and from heaven's standpoint it is perfect. He then said, "But the church is made up of human beings, and none of us are perfect." Brother Jackson's three main points were (1) Problems Are Real. They exist, and we should not be like the proverbial ostrich, burying our heads in the sand and ignoring them. (2) Problems Are Revealing. They tell who is who. When things get tough, the tough keep going. It is the old maxim stated by football players and weight lifters, "No pain, no gain." This principle can be seen in passages like James 1:2-4. It is what our Lord spoke about in Matthew 13:20-21. Some will be "offended" when "tribulation and persecution ariseth because of the word ..." (3) Problems Are Rewarding. Again, James 1:2-4 comes to mind. Afflictions often make us stronger in the Lord. Take a minute to read Psalm 119:67, 71 to see that this is a fact.
There is another thing about my brother's comment that needs to be considered. He said, "... I see faithful brethren dividing up and splitting the church over issues." I kindly pointed out to him that if a brother is teaching something contrary to the Word of God on any "issue," whether it is marriage, divorce, and remarriage, or any other matter, he has ceased being a "faithful brother." Now, he may be sincerely mistaken and misguided, but so are many among the denominations, right? If he has "erred from the truth," he is in need of conversion for he is lost and is leading others toward hell. (James 5:19-20). If this one will not repent of his false position(s), he must be marked and avoided. (Romans 16:17-18; 2 John 9-11).
Yes, indeed, it is a terrible thing to witness division among the people who claim to be Christians. It should not be! However, we must never, never descend to the depths of the sectarians who espouse "unity in diversity." In matters of opinion and judgment, we can disagree and have liberty. In matters of doctrine, we must have a "thus saith the Lord." I do indeed understand my brother's hurt when he sees those who may have once been one in the Lord now divided into factions. However, Paul's words still ring true, "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." (I Corinthians 11:19).
When men depart from what the Word of God teaches on any matter and gather a following, they are the troublers, not the ones who earnestly contend for the faith! (Galatians 1:6-10; Jude 3). -P.O. Box 285, Crum, WV 25669. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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