"In Hope of Unity, Brethren"
Garreth L. Clair
Perhaps no problem is greater among brethren than is the problem of maintaining unity. There has been division among brethren for ages, much of the division has been unnecessary. There are areas of division which were seemingly unavoidable, such as the questions over doctrine. There have been areas of division which should never have occurred. Some of these areas will be discussed below:
1. Jealousy has long been a source of division among brethren and congregations. The author of the Song of Solomon has well stated the facts regarding jealousy, (8:6) ". . . jealousy is cruel as the grave: . . ." There is no question that among men the problem of jealousy has tended to corrupt relationships into schisms which ought not have existed. We are all men of passions, therefore we should temper this passion as best we can that unity among ourselves in the spiritual realm might be continued. Stemming from this passion are many hurtful actions;
(a) Assassination of character is one of the most prevalent. When men allow jealousy to run rampant, their tongue becomes a tongue of slander. Whether justified or unjustified, the attacks upon others character are damaging and very destructive to unity. Unity cannot be maintained in a climate of character assassins.
(b) Creating of imaginary, intentions upon the part of someone else, is another outward characteristic of those possessed of jealousy. We are prone to see other's good fortune through unholy motives when we are possessed of jealousy. We must not determine unholy motives of brethren who are more successful than we in a chosen endeavor unless action upon their part suggests impure Motive. We must not conjure up motives simply because we failed where he has succeeded.
As one can reasonably observe from the thoughts presented on the subject of jealousy, unity cannot be maintained where jealousy has found a home. Jealousy has created enemies among brethren and among congregations, where, had it been replaced with justice and reason, unity might have been continued.
2. Arrogance is another area which has always been a unity destroyer among brethren and congregations. The person beset of arrogance is the man who . . . overestimates himself in importance, is overbearing, haughty, and contemptuous. This person is a hindrance to unity because he:
(a) Cannot accept defeat in matters of judgment. We are all prone to want our way in matters of judgment, but are willing to sacrifice our ideas on occasion for the sake of peace and unity. The arrogant man cannot give up his idea. He considers his idea almost equal to the authority of God's. Therefore unity is destroyed or strained greatly at every discussion of means or methods in doing something, regardless of how minor (Romans 15:1-3).
(b) Is contemptuous of authority. This man will never be pleased with those in authority over him. Many have been the occasions where elders have found out about this man's character too late to salvage the total membership of the congregation where he has been working, due to the undermining of their authority by him. There was no reason for division and confusion, but the arrogant man succeeded in dividing the church because he could not submit to the elders authority (Hebrews 13:17).
3. Self-righteousness is another destroyer of unity among men and congregations. The person who is guilty of this attitude (a self-righteous attitude) is a potential source of division because he:
(a) Tends to look down upon those who are not as strong in one area as he seems to be. None of us is perfect; therefore we ought to guard against unjust criticism of brethren because of weakness (I Corinthians 10: 12). Indeed we must all strive to be as nearly perfect as we can in our spiritual walk, but we must never become so self exalted that we are void of compassion toward the weak and feeble (Romans 15:1).
We should not tolerate sin in brethren's lives but must point out their error to them; not to everyone else. We need to be fair and equitable toward brethren and seek to restore and teach them in a spirit of love and compassion, not in a spirit of self-righteousness.
Conclusion: Much more could be said about attitudes which cause division among brethren. These mentioned above are some of the most prevalent in modern times. We did not attempt to point legitimate areas where division has occurred over Biblical truths, but we have sought to point out areas where unity can be maintained by reasonable Christians in reasonable and honest areas of difference if the attitudes of all concerned are honest. We firmly believe that unity among brethren in faithful churches can be maintained if the above attitude is prevalent among all parties involved in areas of judgment. Don't you, brethren?
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 12, p. 11-12