A Lesson in Unity

It is amazing how brethren can refuse to fellowship with each other because of doctrinal differences. The reason for this may sound good: “to prevent ourselves from possibly absorbing someone else’s error.” However, if we are completely convinced that our doctrines are Biblical, then we should have little worry that contact with different ideas will change us. We do not have to emphasize differences, but we can befriend others who believe in the same Savior, that they may see our example. Look what Paul said about this:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1Cor 2:1-2).

Notice two very important things that Paul said: first, there were some things that he did not want to know! And, second, he wanted to know that the crucified Savior was the center of attention. For so many years it seemed that the most important thing was to find out where another person stood doctrinally, and no one cared about Christ crucified. What a shame! How much this contributes to the dividing of the body of Christ!

Paul knew that there were all kinds of things that could separate brethren if they allowed them to, like arguing over questions and words and doctrines (1Tim 6:4; 2Tim 2:14). I believe this is why Paul wrote to the Corinthians like he did.

It is interesting to note that others in relatively modern times have recognized the problems of divisions created by church groups. Dwight L. Moody is considered to be one of the great American evangelists of the 19th century. When a number of pastors wanted to “ordain” him, Moody took the advice of a close friend and refused. This way, he could never be seen as representing anything other than the crucified Christ. What a wise decision! He did more than anyone of his time to cross denominational boundaries and bring repentant souls to their one and only Savior.

What is so striking in learning about men such as Moody is that God worked with them and gave mighty increase to their labors whether or not they had their theology right. In the beginning of his ministry, Moody taught vehemently about a God who hated sin and hated sinners too. He scared the lives out of lots of people who “gave their lives to Christ.” Then, later on, he learned that God hates sin but loves sinners! He learned that God loved them so much that He sent Jesus to die for them when they were still sinners! This was a revelation to Moody even though he knew about John 3:16. But when he began to teach this new truth, more people than ever answered his encouragement to give their lives to Christ.

Moody once said: "The only way any church can get a blessing is to lay aside all difference, all criticism, all coldness and party feeling, and come to the Lord as one man; and when the church lives in the power of the 13th chapter of First Corinthians I am sure that many will be added daily to the flock of God." It is hard to find an argument with that. This does not mean that truth is not important. Nor does it mean that even a majority of those who were “led to Christ” actually repented, were baptized, or received the Holy Spirit. But there does seem to be a significant number of people who did have a massive change in their life and began to live by the teaching of the Bible.

What it shows to this writer is that we have to allow God to be God and to work with His people one by one as He sees fit. We have to stop erecting altars of understanding on which we stand to criticize and condemn others who don't see what we see yet. Or maybe, just maybe, we are still on the spiritual equivalent of Moody's “God-hates-sinners altar.” Either way, if we allow these differences to divide people who have come to the crucified Jesus Christ, then we are showing the world that we are not His disciples! We've done enough of that I think.

—Fred McGovarin