Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 19, 1956
NUMBER 36, PAGE 3,5b

Urgent Appeal For Unity

Waymon D. Miller, Fort Worth, Texas

There looms over the horizon of the brotherhood dark, ominous and rumbling clouds of division. The atmosphere is charged with explosive elements that could blast the church to bits. Above the din of our dissension there is even heard clamors for a cleavage, as though such were the most desirable course. Division appears to some increasingly more imminent and inevitable. Hostile regiments have taken their positions, and are striking, strafing, sniping and firing salvos of bitterness.

These expressions are not merely meaningless rhetoric. Would to God this were so! Such deplorable conditions already exist to some extent, and will develop rapidly if our course is not changed. Strife already exists to the point that papers oppose papers, preachers oppose preachers, churches oppose churches, and some congregations have suffered the pains of open rupture. When such inflamed feelings are fanned, they become more infectious, and can spread, like loathsome leprosy, over the body of the Lord. Such a fearful condition I fervently pray will never mature, but may unless preventive measures are taken.

There Must Be Unity

It must appear superfluous to impress upon our brethren the inspired injunctions for unity, seeing we have so thoroughly familiarized ourselves with them. These texts we preach with perfervid passion when setting "our plea" before sectarians. With dramatic emphasis do we impress the imperative nature of oneness of faith as required by these divine mandates. But what preaching is meaningful unless it is practiced? Row powerless and ineffectual will be rendered "our plea" for unity unless we ourselves demonstrate unity. And what right have we to rail upon sectarianism if we arrange ourselves into sects? If we preach for unity while practicing divisions, will not such preaching become "a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal," a shallow and insincere shell? If we entertain becoming reverence for these revelations, must not pious brethren earnestly pray that we be unified, rather than urging that we be severed in spirit?

We know God's appraisal of "how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." (Ps. 133:1.) Are we seeking to persevere in this state God regards as so good and so pleasant? We can also recite the Lord's urgent entreaty for the unity of believers. (John 17:17-21.) Are we now striving with any greater effort to effect this unity than any of the warring groups of denominationalism? Or do we, like they, determine to run rampant over the Lord's will, and stubbornly press our positions upon the church, even to the point of division?

Do we manifest unaffected humility, meekness, long-suffering and forbearance toward our brethren, though there be disagreement in our views? Even in controversy, are we careful to manifest these graces? Are we sincerely "eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace"? (Eph. 4:3. RSV) If these sentiments are not ours, do we not stand condemned by these sacred injunctions? Can we with impunity any more ignore the requirements of this cogent text than others we condemn for disregarding the declarations of John 3:5 or Mark16:1.6? Can we plead the necessity of certain select texts, while brushing others aside with indifference to sustain our stubborn contentions? If so, may God help us!

All who would unflinchingly drive a dividing wedge into the body of Christ, promote factionalism, and alienate brethren, need to clearly understand God's sentence upon their souls. God regards as abominable that person who "soweth discord among brethren." (Prov. 6:19.) The factionalist is classified with the proud, liars, murderers, wicked in heart, mischievous and falsifiers.

Where Differences Exist

The Bible makes abundantly clear the fact that there must be perfect unanimity in matters of faith. Where God has spoken, and has clearly expressed His will, we must be unified. In such matters there must not be a particle of confusion among us, but we must be "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Cor. 1:10.) In this we must be "of one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32), and "stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." (Phil. 1:27.)

While the Bible disallows differences in matters of faith, latitude and liberty is allowed in matters of judgment where such judgment violates no principle. of faith. There can be meat eaters and abstainers, and becoming Christian charity must be displayed by one of either group toward the other. Neither was to condemn, disfellowship and despise the other. No laws were to be enforced where God hadn't decreed, and no test of fellowship made over matters of personal judgment. Under the true Christian rule, no man is to measure others by himself, and establish his judgments as a criterion of orthodoxy. And one who arrogantly attaches more importance to his views than upon the unity of the Lord's people is a spiritual pervert.

That brethren can dwell together peacefully, though divided in judgment, has repeatedly been demonstrated. Paul and Barnabas had serious differences over John Mark, so much that they severed evangelistic relations. (Acts 15:26-41.) They accepted these differences, and each labored as he saw best to promote the gospel. No doubt each felt fully justified, and perhaps scripturally so, in their conclusions. But they didn't split the church at Antioch or fulminate strife among other churches, over the matter!

In recent years differences have arisen among brethren, and in each instance those of either side felt themselves unassailably right. There have been hotly contested skirmishes over re-baptism, Bible classes, a plurality of cups, the war question, and numerous other issues. And one on either side of these issues can produce an imposing array of "scriptural proofs" to vindicate his position; as much so as in our present controversies. But in these differences we wisely determined to take a charitable view of brethren on the other side. Though these issues are serious to all involved, it was rightly considered that these differences could be tolerated. It was not thought that we were so far alienated as to warrant a division because of them.

Our present strife is focused upon two factors: a national radio program, and orphan homes. Some favor them and support them, and others do not. In both instances the trouble lies in a difference of judgment over the procedure of these respective works, for none is heard to deny that the gospel can be preached extensively, or that care should be given orphans. The greatest difficulty, however, is found in an unwillingness to admit that these issues concern only differences in judgment. The affirmative avows the scripturalness of his views, and the negative affirms the scripturalness of his. But more scriptural evidence must be produced by both sides to convince many of us that the present strife exists over more than personal judgments and personalities. I do most sincerely believe, moreover, that peace can be maintained among us, if we are sincerely interested in the unity God requires.

The unity of the church, a clearly specified requirement, is to me of vastly greater moment than the issues involved in our current vociferous squabbles, which concern methods and procedures not clearly defined by inspiration. But are we sincere in our desire for unity? Would we be as willing to surrender the personal judgment we seek to impose upon others for the sake of unity, just as we have called upon Digressives to surrender the organ for the same purpose? I could personally wish that any paper, project or program among us would utterly fail, if such has been a source of strife, and if its failure would contribute to universal peace. Does unity really mean as much to us as we profess? Will we then make every effort possible to preserve it, though in doing so concessions may be necessary?

Some Essential Attitudes

If the peace God requires is preserved among us, some amendments must be made in our present attitudes. Two great graces often conspicuously absent in our modern controversies are forbearance and charity.

How disgraceful is the measure of bigotry and intolerance demonstrated among brethren today. The common philosophy is that if a brother differs with me, I must heap upon him imprecations, abuse, rancor, bitterness, and cast a serious reflection upon his integrity and soundness. I must also ruin his reputation and assassinate his character by publishing that he has malicious and deliberate designs to lead the church into digression! I must also feel that brethren who do not accept my views in controverted matters are without dispute unsound. But do we not forget the unending forbearance of God, who has through countless generations tolerated and endured many serious imperfections in the lives of even the most pious of His creatures? Need we not be more God-like in this? It would, in my judgment, help immeasurably in this present crisis.

Then, however unquestionably sound be our doctrinal positions, our hearts cannot be pure if there is not found in them vibrant love for our brethren. Brotherly love is made a measure by which to determine if God dwells in us. (1 John 4:12.) Are the discussions of our differences inspired by sincere love for the erring brother, and a true desire to help him, not ruin him? This spirit seems little in evidence in so many of these discussions.

An elder of a church where I once worked expressed this sentiment in a business meeting where differences of views arose: "Brethren, so long as we feel as we ought toward one another, and will pray together over such matters, we can solve any problem that arises among us." And this I believe true today.

No, brethren, this is not a plea for "peace at any price," or the surrender of any clear principle of truth for the sake of peace. But it is an attempt to forewarn of the prodigiously painful price that must be paid, even by unborn generations, for our failure or stubborn refusal to preserve unity among God's people. May God deliver us from pride and prejudice, that His church may be spared the devastations of divisions that in times past have ravaged her!