In Hope of Unity, Brethren
Perhaps no problem is greater among brethren than is the problem of maintaining unity. There has been division among brethren for ages. Much of the division has been unnecessary. There are areas of division which were seemingly unavoidable, such as the questions over doctrine. There have been areas of division which should never have occurred. Some of these areas will be discussed below:
Jealousy has long been a source of division among brethren and congregations. The author of the Song of Solomon has well stated the facts regarding jealousy. “Jealousy is cruel as the grave” (8.6). There is no question that among men the problem of jealousy has tended to corrupt relationships into schisms which ought not have exited. We are all men of passions. Therefore, we should temper this passion as best we can that unity among ourselves in the spiritual realm might be continued. Stemming from this passion are many hurtful actions:
Assassination of character is one of the most prevalent. When men allow jealousy to run rampant, their tongues become tongues of slander. Whether justified or unjustified, the attacks upon others’ characters are damaging and very destructive to unity. Unity cannot be maintained in a climate of character assassins.
Creating imaginary intentions upon the part of someone else is another outward characteristic of those possessed by jealousy. We are prone to see others’ good fortune through unholy motives when we are jealous of them. We must not determine unholy motives of brethren who are more successful than we in a chosen endeavor unless action upon their part suggests impure motives. We must not conjure up motives simply because we failed where others succeeded.
As one can reasonably observe from the thoughts presented on the subject of jealousy, unity cannot be maintained where jealousy has found a home. Jealousy has created enemies among brethren and among congregations where, had it been replaced with justice and reason, unity might have continued.
Arrogance is another unity destroyer among brethren and congregations. The person beset of arrogance is the man who overestimates himself in importance, is overbearing, haughty, and contemptuous. This person is a hindrance to unity.
He cannot accept defeat in matters of judgment. We are all prone to want our own way in matters of judgment, but are willing to sacrifice our ideas on occasion for the sake of peace and unity. The arrogant man cannot give up his ideas. He considers his ideas almost equal to the authority of God’s. Therefore, unity is destroyed or strained greatly at every discussion of means or methods in doing something, regardless of how minor (Romans 15.1-3).
He is contemptuous of authority. The arrogant man will never be pleased with those in authority over him. Many have been the occasions where elders found out about this man’s character too late to salvage the total membership of the congregation where he has been working due to his undermining of their authority. There was no reason for division or confusion, but the arrogant man succeeded in dividing the church because he could not submit to the elder’s authority (Hebrews 13.17).
Self-righteousness is another destroyer of unity among men and congregations. The person who is guilty of this attitude is a potential source of division.
He tends to look down upon those who are not as strong in one area as he seems to be. None of us are perfect. Therefore, we ought to guard against unjust criticism of brethren because of weakness (1 Corinthians 10.12). Indeed, we must all strive to be as nearly perfect as we can in our spiritual walks, but we must never become so self-exalted that we are void of compassion toward the weak and feeble (Romans 15.1).
We should not tolerate sin in our brethren’s lives, but we must point out their errors to them, not to everyone else. We need to be fair and equitable toward brethren and seek to restore and teach them in a spirit of love and compassion, not in a spirit of self-righteousness.
Conclusion: Unity among brethren in faithful churches can be maintained if the above attitude is prevalent among all parties involved in areas of judgment.