As Christians we have the privilege of the opportunity to have association with fellow brethren of like precious faith just as we have association with God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only do we have the privilege of association, we are to likewise think highly of our brethren.
Unfortunately, just like with our earthly families, we tend to treat the ones we are to love the most– our spiritual family in Christ Jesus– rather poorly; after all, “familiarity breeds contempt”. The Scriptures, however, ought to jolt us out of that type of thinking.
While conflict over some matters is almost impossible to avoid in congregations, just as in the family, we do see some significant reminders regarding how we should view one another that we should continually remember. As Paul says in Romans 14:15, regarding the contention in Rome over eating of meats:
For if because of meat thy brother is grieved, thou walkest no longer in love. Destroy not with thy meat him for whom Christ died.
In times of contention, do we continue to view the one with whom we have some disagreement as “him for whom Christ died”? How different would our attitudes be if we did so?
The main problem in such times is the need that we have to check ourselves at the door, so to speak, particularly in matters relating to one another. Unfortunately, we see far too often that brethren, in the guise of strong faith, do not feel so compelled to check themselves at the door.
Why do we assemble, according to the Scriptures?
Let all things be done unto edifying, (1 Corinthians 14:26).
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh, (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Most brethren would readily agree to the fact that encouragement of the saints is the Biblical purpose for assembling. Our worship to God and other actions done in the assembly all gear toward that end. What I fail to understand, however, is why there so often is a disconnect between what is said above and what the Scriptures also say below.
Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbor’s good, (1 Corinthians 10:24).
Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each one of us please his neighbor for that which is good, unto edifying.
For Christ also pleased not himself; but, as it is written, “The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell upon me,” (Romans 15:1-3).
If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others, (Philippians 2:1-4).
I, personally, find all of these Scriptures to be extremely fundamental in nature and critical to our faith. If we try to build a house of faith while neglecting these principles we cannot be pleasing to our Master.
Yet time and time again we see brethren who ought to know better attempt to skirt these responsibilities. Christians who are more than willing to seek to do good to their neighbors despise their brethren. Why? Not because of false teaching or immorality, but over differences of opinion on matters of liberty. The very ones whom they should care about the most seem to get the least attention, not because of some critical matter of the faith, but because they forgot to check themselves at the door.
It is extremely disconcerting to see this attitude especially prevalent in many who ought to be considered the “stronger”. As opposed to following Romans 15:1-3 and bearing with the failings of the weak, they would much rather despise the weak and would rather see them gone so that they can have their liberties than to share in the communion of the faith. It is easier to characterize their brethren as “legalists,” “traditionalists,” or far worse caricatures than it is to really sit down with your brothers and sisters in Christ, they for whom Christ died, and try to reasonably work out matters, or– God forbid!– lay down your liberties for the sake of the unity of the faith.
When it is more valuable to have one’s way in matters of liberty than it is to maintain unity in the faith, such represents the essence of Phariseeism– people so concerned about things that, comparatively, do not matter, while neglecting love and mercy and faithfulness. Yet these very same people seem to be more quick to point the finger at their brethren than themselves.
It is always easier to see the Pharisee in the other than it is in yourself.
The time has past for the “strong” brethren to quit acting as if they are the “weak” brethren. Apparently everyone wants to be the strong brother– such a one has the faith to engage in various practices. How many, however, want to bear the responsibilities that come with being the “stronger” brother? It is not sufficient to simply have the knowledge, as it is written in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3:
Now concerning things sacrificed to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth. If any man thinketh that he knoweth anything, he knoweth not yet as he ought to know; but if any man loveth God, the same is known by him.
Far too many brethren have knowledge without the maturity in love necessary to properly manage that knowledge. Any knowledge of a liberty in Christ must have with it the knowledge of the greater priorities– righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Knowledge of a liberty without the recognition of responsibility simply leads to divisiveness, strife, and contention, the very things that God deplores (Galatians 5:19-21).
If you are strong in faith regarding a matter of liberty, particularly a liberty involving the assembly of the saints, act like it– be willing to bear with the failings of the weak, make sure that you are not causing others to stumble by your knowledge/liberty (Romans 14-15:3). You cannot earn “brownie points” with God by pointing the fingers at your “weaker” brethren, those with whom you disagreed, acting as if they were the problem. They will stand in judgment for their end of whatever disagreement arose– it is far more important for you to first turn the finger on yourself before tearing down the faith of another.
Brethren, we need to check ourselves at the door. Think seriously on how many disagreements would never exist, how many divisions could be avoided, how much more and better work could be done in the Kingdom if we all embodied the attitude that the Scriptures mandate: seek the good of others, especially those of the household of faith. Do all things for encouragement.
“All things” does not mean “all things I want to do”. Brother or sister, check yourself at the door!