Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 20, 1969
NUMBER 29, PAGE 1-2a

The Brotherhood And Factionalism

Forrest D. Moyer

Saved people are a great brotherhood. Those who are disciples of Christ are brethren. As brethren the kind of love that God has is to motivate our relationship and actions one toward another (1 John 4:7-21). This kind of love knows no bounds. It is the kind of love that "suffers long and is kind," that "envieth not . . . is not puffed up." It is the kind of love that demonstrates to the world that we are disciples of Christ (John 13:35). When this kind of love is not present, we fall far short of the spirit of Christ and the will of God for our lives.

That those who were brethren have often been divided is a well-known fact. Sometimes division was inevitable. Certainly so when different attitudes toward the scriptures prevailed. When brethren loved the inventions of men more than the will of God, it was impossible to avoid division. Anytime a human invention affected the whole body (local church) and brought it into error, the practice of each member was involved. The only recourse for the faithful was to separate.

Such was true in the case of church support of the missionary society and the use of instrumental music. It is likewise true today in the support of human institutions out of the church treasury.

However, there have often been divisions that were avoidable had brethren followed the spirit of Christ. There is a wide range of things that are neither commanded nor forbidden (1 Cor. 6:12), and, I am persuaded, should never divide brethren. There are also differences of understanding in regard to passages that affect the individual rather than the practice of the whole church. If each of us shall follow God's law of love, we can avoid division in these things. In fact, Paul discusses this in

Romans 14

Here inspiration deals with matters in this very category. Some believed that meat was improper and ate only vegetables and this in regard to Christ (perhaps believing that Christ did not permit meat). These were weak; they were not yet fully mature. But they were not to be disfellowshipped or abused. They were to be received as brethren and not in order to have strifes and disputations with them. Some believed in observing certain days to the Lord while others did not. Again they were to receive one another as brethren without condemning each other. A person who had belief along this line was told to "have it to thyself before God." (v. 22) He was not to pass it beyond measure nor cut off those who were not in agreement. There could be brotherly love even when this difference existed. The differences did not affect the practice of the local church — they did affect individuals.

For years there have been points of disagreement among brethren on several subjects. We have discussed these candidly and openly without feeling it necessary to withdraw from one another. But it seems that there has arisen a disposition among us that if one does not agree with us fully, he is unsound and cannot be fellowshipped. I do not feel that the soundness of a person is determined by whether or not he has the same opinions as I or is in full agreement on matters affecting the individual. To illustrate: the question of a woman's wearing a hat has been discussed for years. There still remains diversity of thought on this. However, it has not caused a cleavage of brethren and will not unless we begin to press our convictions to the dividing of the body. The same thing is true regarding the qualifications of elders; it is true concerning a Christians serving in military uniform. There have been discussions as to whether it is sinful to use tobacco in any form. In these things there may be diversity of conviction without factionalizing the church. There are questions concerning marriage that have been discussed for generations and are still being discussed. A calm study of this question without accusing one another of being immoral, soft, or radical is in order. Let us not have the disposition of wanting to cut off brethren. This spirit of factionalism hinders a careful and candid study of the problems.

I suppose that on these points and numerous others there will always be some differences and some things to be learned. We can study and can learn if all of us will act like brethren who truly love each other.

May I suggest to all that we do all in our power to keep from factionalizing the church. If we feel that a brother has erred on some point, let us teach him rather than vilify, abuse, or misrepresent him. Indeed, let us love as brethren.

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