By Dennis C. Abernathy
“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15). As sad as it is, the situation described by the above verse of Scripture is all too true in many congregations of the Lord’s people.
This is seen in an atmosphere of bickering and fussing, backbiting, talebearing, the hurling of taunts, the use of snide and sarcastic remarks, and in general, that of agitation and turmoil.
I suppose there are various reasons for such a sad and sorry state of affairs to exist among God’s people. It may be jealously, envy, factions, the party spirit, etc. Whatever it is, it is wrong and the church of the Lord suffers!
In congregations, brethren will have some disagreement with the preacher or elders, or, perhaps they do not like some decision that is made. In a group of people working together, these things happen from time to time. But brethren, there is a right way and a wrong way to air our disagreements and make our feelings known. Instead of making their feelings known to the preacher or elders in a brotherly way, they begin to eat away, causing all the turmoil they can, looking for anything they can use to get their point across or to get at the one or ones who have now become their “foe.” To make the situation even worse, all too often they conduct themselves like termites – never out in the open – but working – continuously working gnawing away – spreading a little bit of gossip here – a sarcastic remark there – and on and on it goes until it erupts into open contention and in some cases splits the church!
Another scenario is seen when members are disciplined for ungodly conduct, and some do not like such action for one reason or the other, so they will try to get everyone they can to take the side of the sinner (the one disciplined) against the elders and the church. In other words, “the poor sinner is just misunderstood.” “He is not really doing anything all that bad.” Next, you begin to hear how two or three “just had it in” for this poor misunderstood and sorely maligned brother. Juicy tidbits of hearsay are tossed about among the members of the church, motives are imagined, maligned, and impugned. Brethren begin to line up, petitions are drawn up, and everyone who can be persuaded sign up, and what you have is one big sinful mess!
On and on we could go. But you can mark it well. It is a sad state of affairs when the church is thrown into turmoil. Pity the one guilty of causing such. Please do not make charges and spread rumors and slander the good name of others. If you have a legitimate charge to make against your brother (you have clear cut proof and reliable witnesses), go to him and handle it in a brotherly way. If decisions are made and they are according to truth, then support them. If ungodly members are worked with, rebuked and finally withdrawn from, encourage them to repent of their ungodliness – but please never sympathize with them and encourage them in their wrong by telling everybody how wrong the church is in taking such action.
Remember, if we “bite and devour one another” we will be consumed the congregation will cease to exist and even if it does continue on it will have lost its good name and reputation and will be a hindrance for the Lord’s cause in that community.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 10, p. 289
May 21, 1987