When Brethren Disagree
by Mark J. Ward
It is obvious that people who are brethren among churches of Christ disagree on Bible subjects. What is interesting to this writer is that there is often a general apathy concerning that fact. The very fact that the Bible clearly teaches that there are "babes" in Christ and that we should grow into saints of a "full age" having our senses "exercised to discern" both good and evil (Hebrews 5:10-15), should suggest that we would mature into "truth" on various topical matters over which there is disagreement among well meaning brethren. Here are some Biblical thoughts concerning what we should do when brethren disagree.
EXPRESS A LOVE FOR EACH OTHER
I Corinthians 13 teaches that without "love" or "charity" we are nothing spiritually. The admonition, "let brotherly love continue" is certainly not limited to those brethren with whom we agree! Since disagreements involve conflict of at least two, if not more, points of view on a particular topic, let's not add "fuel to the fire" by acting in such a way as to contribute to a "bad environment for learning". Let's do all we can to contribute to an environment that allows confidence that a healthy, profitable study can occur of opposing beliefs with an effort to unite on God's truth on the matter!
EXPRESS A LOVE FOR TRUTH
I am reminded of the phrase "buy the truth and sell it not". Do we really LOVE truth? IF we continue in His word, THEN are we His disciples indeed (John 8:31,32). If two (or more) folks are studying an issue over which there is disagreement, a love for truth by all involved can go a long way towards contributing to a good study. Certainly there must be more involved, but we need to always express a love for God's truth in our studies.
EXHIBIT PATIENCE AND LONGSUFFERING IN DISAGREEMENT
Since Biblical love expresses itself actively (as found in I Corinthians 13 and elsewhere) with attributes like patience and longsuffering, we should learn this behavior if we are not currently practicing it. What better way to exercise ourselves in godliness than to be gentle, longsuffering, and patient with those with whom we disagree on a matter? Just like it is easy to "love those who love us" and harder for us to "love our enemies"...it is also easier to "have patience with those who agree with us" and harder for us to "have patience with those who disagree with us". No matter what our conviction on a topic, we need more doses of this in our studies! The devil is very pleased when we are short, curt, blunt, careless with words, unfeeling, impatient, and "short-suffering" with either our brethren or fellow man.
REALIZE THE DEVIL WANTS DISAGREEMENT AND GOD DESIRES UNITY
I have heard it taught, and rightly so, that a church that is growing will be "filled with error" from the standpoint of having many babes in Christ in the group who don't hold the truth on some matters (yet). The natural process of teaching, growth, maturation, etc will eliminate a lot, if not all of this error (on their part)...as it well should. Please consider this aspect of disagreements over spiritual matters, the devil is very pleased with "continuing disagreement" and a lack of study on matters wherein we should seek agreement. Jesus prayed for unity in John 17. I Corinthians 1:10 points out that we are to seek to be of the same mind and the same judgment. Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 both point to the fact that brethren in differing stages of growth see spiritual matters differently, albeit there IS a Bible answer to the topic, we still must proceed with the instruction in those passages while we disagree with each other. There are other passages of scripture that must be heeded as well, but in this study we are concentrating on how we behave while we are in the studying process with those with whom we disagree. (We will leave other matters to potential future article material).
OPEN MINDS & OPEN BIBLES
How can we ever learn something if we already have a closed mind on the topic? Simply stated, we can't. We will have to open our minds and be receptive to God's truth before we can recognize any false idea or practice that we might believe is authorized. Many folks don't even open the Bible or appeal to Bible passages in support of their position/conviction/conscience on a matter! Can we not see from passages like 1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3; Ephesians 3:4; and Matthew 4:4 how we should open our Bibles and really get into the Word of God to find our answers? I am amazed at the viewpoints held by many on issues regarding the work and worship of the local church, for example, without any scriptural foundation or without even believing such is necessary in some cases!
CONSIDER THE OPPOSING VIEWPOINT
Have you ever been with someone that was "so right" they would not even consider they could be wrong? I am so impressed with the statements in the inspired record in the latter verses of Acts 18 concerning Apollos. He was quite a speaker! Mighty in the scriptures. Right on numerous points. What type of attitude do you think he must have had (at least somewhere along the line of being taught) in considering what Aquila and Priscilla had to say? We all could take a page out of Apollos' book on that matter, don't you think?
GIVE DIGESTION TIME AFTER STUDY
Finally, a thought about not believing that everyone is going to come to a studied conclusion, or even the truth on the same topic, at the same rate of speed! Sometimes folks need "digestion time" to ponder the evidence from God's Word, consider carefully the points made for and against a particular position or viewpoint....and then reach a conclusion. Even then, shouldn't we always be willing and ready to study with one of an opposing view for our good AND theirs? I would hope we would.
May God continue to bless every effort for good. Thanks for reading.
-Mark J. Ward
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