By Jimmy Tuten, Jr.
Today we are witnessing a revival of sinful “religious” ideals, some of which faced the Church of our Lord at the turn of the century. We will not have to strain our eyes to see that the reaction is about the same, too.
When the “Society controversy” began to reach its peak, the question among some brethren of “drawing lines” became acute. Some reacted hastily, and promiscuously withdrew fellowship from brethren who did not agree with them. Since those who disagreed with them refused to back down from the belief in the all sufficiency of the Church to carry out God’s purpose in evangelism, they were branded with the tag of “antiism.” “Anti’s” were looked upon with disfavor, as having warped minds, as individuals to be avoided. Such action was revolting to God-fearing brethren who rejected the Missionary Society in favor of God’s word.
I am sure we all recognize that the Church has gone through serious, crucial periods in the past and continues to do so. Digression seems to be running wild in the field of benevolence as well as in evangelism. If the sinful principles of the “society” question dies out, then they are being revived. This revival of fashionable (?) society principles bring with it, a revival of reactionary principles also. Today, among those who are seeking to force their “pet projects” and innovations upon the brotherhood, there is the formation of a “clique” attitude. This clique seems to feel duty bound to draw lines. Their actions indicate that they feel that they must do something with those who refuse to accept their unauthorized projects. Can they consistently and conscientiously withdraw fellowship from those who disagree with them after having told the brotherhood that their institutions are just matters of opinion? “After all,” they say, “God did not tell the Church how to do its benevolent work.” Surely brethren know better than to make an opinion a test of fellowship (1 Cor. 8:7-13; 10:23-33). Whoever heard (except in a few rash cases) of withdrawing over “expediencies”? Eureka! They found the answer. Instead of opening themselves to censor by withdrawing, they just simply “marked” them! “It’s right there in Romans 16:17,” they say. Brethren have just missed the point all these years. The truth is, these institutional brethren care little about the fact that those who are “marked” are also to be “avoided.” What if the passage does teach and demand withdrawal? If they can misapply James 1:27 and salve the conscience, they can certainly do the same for this passage. So if goes!
From the Restoration Movement came the plea, “In matters of faith, unity! In matters of opinions, liberty! In all things, love!” Brethren need to give serious thought to the principle involved in this statement. If God did not tell the Church “how” to do its benevolent work, then the institutional programs propagated by these brethren fall into the realm of opinions. Instead of withdrawing from those who will not accept these opinions (call it “marking” if you want to), would it not be better to seek to instruct with patience and forbearance? Stigmatizing a person is the wrong way to deal with what is said to be an “expediency.” Maybe I am overlooking something. But one thing is certain, the institutional brethren, in reviving the principles of the society movement cannot avoid the reactionary principles. To “mark,” that is still the question.
New times, new climes;
New lands, new men, but still
The same old tears, old crimes,
And oldest ill.
Why can’t brethren today work out their difference prayerfully in the light of God’s word? Was not the Church commanded to “prove all things and hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21)? If you consider the so-called “anti’s” at fault, and thyself “spiritual,” then restore them “in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself” (Gal. 6:1). It is never fashionable nor right to stigmatize, brand, and misrepresent our brethren. God forbid that he should glory, save in the cross of Christ (Gal. 6:14).
Truth Magazine XXII: 9, p. 155
March 2, 1978