?You Know What?
In Four recent editorials you say no one is perfect, and, we do not perfectly know and do all the things Christ wants us to know and do. Why not, then, fellowship those in error on one things, since you may be in error on another? S.A.
In the first place, my error does not make another's error right. On the above basis there could be no correction or discipline.
If by "fellowship" you mean "be friendly toward" or "willing to study together" or, assuming one has obeyed the gospel, "treat as a brother;" all this I do. I will "fellowship" with him as far as my conscience will allow (judgments may vary some here); but I can not "jointly participate" in what I believe to be error, either by financial support, joint effort, or by lending my influence or moral support (2 Jn. 11; 1 Cor. 5:1-f; Rev. 2:20; 2 Thes. 3:14-15).
When we speak of a "brother in error" some scoff, and say since none are perfect all brethren are "in error." This is 1) a trick of semantics and, 2) ignores the attitude demonstrated by fruits. There is a vast difference in a brother "overtaken in a fault" who may be "restored" (Gal. 6:1); and one who propagates error and refuses to engage in scriptural examination of the issue (Matt. 18:17). The difference widens when whole segments of the church promote a certain error , insist on using church funds for "their projects", riding roughshod over objectors. Babes in Christ are often "innocent victims" of such ungodly disturbances, and we should "feel for them" and patiently teach and encourage them just as we would babes overtaken in other faults. But more often, the masses engaged in these divisions are members of long standing, who stick their heads in the sand and refuse to "take a stand" because they "love the praise of men more than the praise of God" (Jn. 12:43).
In 2 Thes. 3:15, "admonish him as a brother" forbids a vindictive or personally hostile discipline. Yet it follows: "If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may he ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but ..." Considering one as "brother" does not mean I must give moral or financial support to his error. I certainly can not become a member of a congregation whose collective functions are contrary to that which I believe the Lord wills.
Under proper circumstances I will "admonish as a brother" — and will in turn, accept and test their admonitions by the word of God. If you doubt this, ask such a church to extend me an invitation to visit them. I am happy to believe my "brother in error" is sincere in his belief, and wants to believe and practice that which is taught in God's word -- so long as he will act that way. Such brethren welcome Bible study on our points of difference, and are honorable in their dealings with others.
Let us do all possible to encourage true "Christian" fellowship, but remember — God makes the rules.