There Is More Than One Hole in the Fence
"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). Solomon, Gods wise man, gave instructions to his son and all his posterity that it is the heart from which the issues of life spring. Today we hear a great deal about "issues" or topics of interest and controversy. A lot of words are issued from all sides in an effort to find right, and sides are inevitably drawn up. This is predictable, but hardly desirable. Especially in realms of the spirit is this attitude of divisiveness condemnable. There is no room for "sides" when dealing with Gods absolute law. We cannot hope to circumvent the law of God anymore than we can change the laws of nature; both being God ordained. How can man draw up sides for or against gravity? What foolishness to seek to "study" the "question" of the existence of matter! Yet, in the body of our Lord, we have those that seek to do just that. Gods law is steadfast and has only one message. It is the heart of man that is fickle, wavering and dishonest. To deal with any kind of division, we must therefore change the heart of man rather than tamper with the law of God.
When speaking of division we do not limit our thinking to merely doctrinal issues. Any kind of division or schism in the Lords body that has at its root a corrupt heart must be dealt with (Matt. 15:18, 19). For years a great deal of emphasis has been heaped on the issues concerning the purity of the church, the work of the church, and fellowship in the church. This is as it should be. A farmer works on that part of his fence where the cows are getting out or the wolves are getting in. Today the fence is not only mended, but an impenetrable barricade has been erected to prevent any further losses. But what a foolish farmer that would stand back with pride and admire the fine job he has done while his stock wanders out through gaping holes that he has overlooked? How much more of our time and effort should be spent on the individual Christian and his manner of life, than on the church as an institution? To be sure we will always have to fight error in the church, but that error has its origin in un-taught individuals. It is the individual, not the church, that will stand in Judgment (Rev. 20:12).
How many congregations have a Brother Stingy or a Sister Hateful? "Oh, dont pay any attention to Brother Stingy, he has always been that way." Or we might hear, "Sister Hateful didnt really mean it; you just have to get to know her." As far as the judgment is concerned these words might as well have been, "I will not support the institution, neither will I condemn it. The church has always had these things." Our attitude towards covetousness or a sharp, hurtful tongue is to be just as unyielding as our stand against digression. "But fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not once be named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks" (Eph. 5:3,4). We labor so hard to maintain the purity of the church in organization, but how steadfast are we to maintain tire purity of the church in content?
We often hear, "I am told to love my brother, but the Lord did not say anything about liking him." This is often a thinly disguised excuse for prejudice, neglect and inhospitality. Unfortunately for those that refuse to give the love that was given for them (1 Jno. 4:7-11), the Holy Spirit has revealed that we are to like the brethren. "Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another" (1 Rom. 12: 10). "And above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover a multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging" (1 Pet. 4:8,9).
The list is endless, for it is front the heart of man, or his spirit, that the issues of life have their origin. It is the heart that the sriptures are directed towards, and it is the heart of man that God seeks to change. We can no longer be content merely to be doctrinally correct; we must be spiritually correct. All of the old personality that each carries about with him that is corrupt and un-Christ-like must be discarded. If we have really put on Christ, then we must lay aside not only our previous immorality, but our old style of thinking which centered in selfishness (Eph. 4:21,22). We must not only refrain front going back to the way we used to live, but study the scriptures and see how Jesus walked and try to be just like him (Eph. 5: 23-24). And "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christs sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:31, 32).
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 6, pp. 12-13