Are you a builder or a destroyer? Do you edify or sow discord amongst the brethren? Is your motive purely to unite the Body, or are you promoting schism and sectarianism?
Paul gives us some sound advice as he prepares for his last days on earth.
Philippians 2:1-4 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
God has called us to be of one accord—to be in agreement with one another as children of the same Heavenly Father. We are not called to have schisms, or be at war with one another, or to wrestle with flesh and blood. We are family. God’s family.
This requires walking in love. Love covers a multitude of sins. We are not to ignore sin or be ignorant of it, nor do we turn a blind eye to it or its consequences. However, we need to understand that we are all at different levels of understanding and faith, yet we are all brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. We are not enemies. We are here to support one another, even through difficult times.
Neither do we accept without question every doctrine that surfaces. Whatever we are being taught needs to be weighed up against the established Word of God. We can trust the doctrine of Christ. We can trust the Apostles’ doctrine. We can trust the canon of scripture. These things are all written. We have them before us to learn and study.
However, whether we think we are right or not, we must be careful not to use our own understanding of doctrine as a weapon to denounce, destroy or discourage other believers. There is no accord in this, only division. We live and minister according to the Spirit of the Law, which tends to life, not the letter, which kills.
Bond of love
God is calling us to unity in the bond of love. We cannot do this by tearing one another apart. We are warned not to bite and devour one another. Those who are mature are admonished to bear the burdens of the immature, and even work with them to help them grow up in Christ.
This takes a high degree of patience, nurture and care, but it cannot be achieved by a condemning manner. Condemnation divides. Love unites. Love sometimes corrects, but it does not despise, mock or denigrate the learner. Some say we must contend for the faith, which is true, but not by contending with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We contend for truth by hearing, living, activating and preaching truth.
We should not do anything out of selfish ambition. If we seek to correct the Body out of a sense of overbearing self-serving piety devoid of humility we will merely be purveyors of law and not agents of grace, love or mercy.
It is God’s grace which saves us. Grace is accessed and received through faith. Faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. We have to approach other members of the Body of Christ with the same levels of love, grace, mercy and patience God has for us.
The Word is not something we wield against our own people like some missile aimed at their heart. There is a profound difference between firing off fiery darts and delivering the Word of truth. If the Word penetrates when it is spoken in love then we will win their heart, not tear it to shreds.
The cup of doctrine is not supposed to be some poisoned chalice designed to fell its victim. Doctrine is the framework for deliverance, direction and development of the regenerated man.
The Sword of the Spirit is used against spiritual darkness, not our brothers and sisters. We pray for them when they are sailing too close to error, and apply the truth to their situation in love however we can, wherever they will listen, whenever they will hear and respond. If they do not receive the truth we can continue to work with them carefully and patiently, but ultimately it is God who will make the final analysis of their faith.
If we seek to judge others we should first examine our own limitations, faults, bias and motives. If we are to be critics, let be of our own shortcomings first so that we qualify to examine the lack in the lives of others. As Jesus said, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone!”
Humility is the attitude that acknowledges that God is above all and that we need to surrender our will, hopes and desires to his. If we are going to look after the interests of others, we should first make certain that our motives are pure, our attitude is tempered by a lack of bias or guile, and we are walking in love and humility.
We are set apart to prefer one another under God. Our first submission is to God, and then to one another. In this environment of being in one accord we will be less likely to want to pull down another believer simply because we feel we can find fault with them.
Fault finders are two-a-penny. These days they spend hours on the internet seeking any slip of the tongue or controversy to line their gossip coffers with some juicy tid-bit with which to titillate their fans’ imaginations in some contrived article on their blog. Too easy. Spend a day with anyone and you will find something.
It’s far harder to walk alongside the person who has faults to help them get over them without condemning them. Try it. It’s a huge discipline, but one that is so needed in the Body today. It’s called making disciples and is Biblical.
What we really need is the kind of person who can see the good in people and help them work on the weaknesses they display. Get them to face sin issues, yes, but not at the expense of destroying their confidence in God. Making disciples. That is what we are called to, not gossip, discord or backbiting. Our commission is to build people up, not tear them down.
We need life-builders. We may need to help pull down spiritual strongholds in people’s lives, but the ultimate aim will always be the welfare of their soul. We are called to teach and train converts to be sound disciples of Christ.
We have to first look at the best in people. Bear in mind that this article is referring to believers, who have already received Christ as Lord and Saviour, and have begun their walk in Christ. Everyone has something about them which can be shaped and fashioned into maturity. Scripture is given to make us into better people, not to rip us apart in some gossip column.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Do you see the last part of that passage of scripture? ‘So that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”. That, then, is the aim of discipleship. To walk and work alongside others to help them mature in Christ through the application and activation of the Word in their own lives.
Of course, we need to apply this to ourselves first. The purpose of scripture is to shape people, not slap them down. Doctrine is useful for assisting people to know who they are in Christ and act accordingly, but it is a terrible thing when it is illicitly used as a proof text to tear someone down.
If we help one another along in this way we will be sowing accord, not discord. If we build one another up in the Word we will be developing unity amongst our brothers and sisters in Christ. Once we are in Christ we have begun a journey of accord. We all start equal. We all have potential. We all have a call and gifts to offer the rest of the Body. We are all set in the Body, with a purpose and a function.
Ephesians 4:11-18 [Christ] Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ–from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
In love, then. We edify one another in love. We supply of our own anointing, ability, call and gifts to the rest of the Body to help edify and build it in love. We are called to come to the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God. We are called to maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. We are called to grow up in Christ in all things to avoid being displaced by misapplied doctrine and cunning spoilers. We are called to love.
We are called to one accord in Christ.