By Cecil Willis
There are many passages that teach that brethren in the Lord should love one another. Let us all read carefully the following scriptures. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love one to another (Jno. 13:34, 35). Paul added, “Let love be without hypocrisy…. In love of the brethren be tenderly affectionate one to another” (Rom. 12:9, 10). Peter enjoined love also: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently” (I Pet. 1:22). Of course, the apostle of love had much to say on this subject. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (I Jno. 4:7, 8). John also said, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for be that loveth not his brother whom he bath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen. And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also” (I Jno. 4:20, 21). The Hebrew writer used the words from which the title of this article is taken, “Let love of the brethren continue” (Heb. 13:1).
The tensions and conflicts among brethren the past two decades or so have severely tested our love one for another. Of course, some brethren think that the mere fact that we have any disagreements at all is evidence that we do not love one another. Others think that when a person mentions the name of a brother with whom he differs that brotherly love is absent. Actually, the brother who believes his brethren are in error and that their souls are jeopardized must seek to correct them. God loves us, and thus He corrects us and chastens us by His word.
But we have now for many years been engaged in heated conflict with many of our brethren. We all should have waged our battle on the basis of principles rather than merely against personalities, if we have not. There is no justification for character assassination of brother against brother. There is a manly and an honorable way in which to differ with a brother.
Unfortunately, not every person who has participated in the controversies, both past and present, has conducted himself as he should have. Neither has all the wrong been on one side. Possibly nearly all of us have, on some occasion, said or done something that is somewhat beneath the standard of acceptable conduct.
Every person who has been knowledgeable to the controversy could recite the occurrence of untoward incidents. I have known of occasions when brethren became so heated in their disagreements that they actually engaged in physical combat. How ridiculous can brethren get? Imagine, sinfully engaging in physical combat over a Bible subject. In a number of other instances, brethren have become so worked up and lost control of themselves so that they have shouted at one another, and in other instances pushed and shoved one another around. One preaching brother wrote me from the Philippines that a liberal brother had gotten after him “with a long barreled gun.” But again I state, all the sinful anger and reproachable conduct have not been on one side.
Sometimes brethren are downright childish in their reaction to another brother. At other times, perhaps the word asinine would better describe the dishonorable conduct. When I lived in Kansas City several years ago, we had a peculiar incident to occur. The congregation for which I was preaching had built and paid for a large highway sign. When the sign was put up, differences between brethren had not become so intense, so the names and addresses of another nearby congregation or two had also been given on the highway sign as a courtesy to the other congregations. After severe differences developed between congregations, you know what action someone took? Rather than asking us to remove the names and addresses of the other congregations from our sign, someone went out, and painted out the name of our congregation on our sign. That was an audacious and childish deed.
Another incident, about equally childish, just came to my attention. Last fall the Lennon Road church in Flint, Michigan conducted a ladies lectureship, whatever that implies. The small conservative church in Flint was also invited to attend, as I imagine were all the other congregations in the city of Flint. Sometime later, after someone had discovered that the invitation had been sent to the “Anti” church, Brother Andrew Ashlock, one of the Elders at Lennon Road church, wrote the following letter to the Ladies of the faithful 12th Street church in Flint: “Dear Ladies: You were mistakenly included on our mailing list for the Christian Ladies Lectureship. We did not intend to extend the invitation to you and we hope you understand that you would not be welcome at this event. We are sorrowfully and prayerfully yours.” Then the letter is signed “For the Elders” by Andrew Ashlock.
This is the kind of reproachable and childish action that we could so well do without. If I were one of the 5 Elders and twelve Deacons whose names appear on the letterhead, or “Minister” Kenneth Jarrett or “Missionary” E. Ray COX” I think I would want to apologize to the 12th Street church and to let them know that I was not a party to, nor in sympathy with, the childish letter signed by Elder Andrew Ashlock.
Disagreements among brethren are bad enough. Division in the Body of Christ is deplored by every right thinking person. But even in our sincere disagreements, and even when division becomes necessary in order to practice what one believes to be acceptable worship to God, at least we can be manly, honorable, and brotherly in our dealings with one another. Indeed, “let brotherly love continue.”
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 37, pp. 3-5
July 27, 1972