By Edward O. Bragwell
“At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.” (2 Tim. 4: 16)
In the battle for right, one should stand alone if necessary. But it should not be necessary. Paul recalls his encounter with the coppersmith. He relates, without bitterness, how he was left to fight the battle alone. Yet, he was not really alone. The Lord stood with him. (vs. 17) How discouraging the absence of the brethren must have been. But, how encouraging was the fact that the Lord stood with him!
Standing for truth is bound to produce enemies. Jesus said so much: “Think not that I am come to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matt. 10:34-36)
Standing for the truth should produce friends as well. We should openly stand for Christ. A Christian cannot help being encouraged by knowing that he has the support of good brethren in his spiritual warfare. If I had to stand alone, as Paul did, I wonder how strong I would be. I pray I shall not have to be put to the test. The moral support of good brethren in the Lord’s work is priceless.
Before taking a stand with any person, one should distinguish between personality and principle. One need not feel obligated to support a brother in a purely personal dispute. In such matters both parties are usually wrong. One cannot afford to be a party to such partisanship.
However, principles are held and advanced by persons. Ideas are not just loose in the air they are in people. Doctrines are not promoted by things – they are taught and defended by personalities. It is too easy to dismiss every dispute in religion as a “Personality clash” between the disputants. It avoids the effort of determining who, if anyone, is right. It avoids having to make the painful decision to stand with those who are right. It may be the easy way out, but is it the right way?
People often privately admire those who take a firm stand for truth. They may even say so privately. Yet, if it comes to open identification with those people, then forget it! It might cost too much in worldly friendships.
Let us learn not to stand with any person above principle. That is cheap partisanship. But let us not be afraid to be identified with persons of principle. They should not have to stand alone – even if they are willing to.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 29, pp. 7-8
May 24, 1973