SHOULD WE ACCEPT BRETHREN IN ERROR

Neal griffin

It is interesting, if not paradoxical, that every schism in the conservative wing of the Church of Christ claims that it is the only sound, faithful church. It is also interesting to note that subtle differences of opinion are tolerated within the framework of each of these factions only if such differences do not threaten the party creed which distinguishes the particular sound, faithful Church of Christ from the other Churches of Christ. Within the so-called "anti" Churches of Christ, different opinions are tolerated as to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but if a brother challenges the party creed on non-support of orphanages, he is persona-non-grata. Similar examples can be given for every one of the conservative Church of Christ schisms. Some tolerate differences on the divorce and remarriage issue. Some tolerate differences on the millennium issue. But none tolerate differences on the creed position which makes their sound, faithful church distinct.

The tragic aspect of this paradox is that it is exclusive. It cannot allow its subjects to accept anyone who does not toe its particular party line. This, of course, is designed to keep the "church" pure. "One-cup" Church of Christ members do not accept "multiple cup" Church of Christ members. "One-cup-with-handles" Church of Christ members do not accept "one-cup-with-out-handles" Church of Christ members. "Anti" Church of Christ members do not accept "liberal" Church of Christ members. "Acapella" Church of Christ members do not accept "instrument" Church of Christ members. "Anti-class" Church of Christ members do not accept "class" Church of Christ members. Under this confused system, crossing party lines is prohibited. Anyone teaching contrary to the party line is branded as a "false teacher" and railroaded.

Is God the author of this confusion? Or, have we simply missed the boat? Is such an exclusive ideology to be found anywhere in the New Testament? Are schisms endorsed in the New Testament? Therefore, the question we wish to address here is: "Should Christians accept one another as Christ accepted them?" But, this poses another greater question: Did our Jesus, The Christ, overlook any of our shortcomings and errors when he accepted us? This is a big question. Because, if He did, this places the same obligation on each one of us. The passage says clearly, "as Christ accepted you". Did Priscilla and Aquila brand Apollos as a "false teacher" and exclude him? False teachers are false because they have false hearts. Apollos was not a false teacher, even though he was teaching error. Can we brand as a false teacher and exclude a brother because he has arrived at a different conclusion on some contested passage on which God has not chosen to make Himself clear? But, what about brethren in error? Can we accept brethren in error? Yes, and the reason is that there are no other kinds of brethren but brethren in error. Were we without error when Christ accepted us? The question is: Can we accept one another as Christ accepted us?

Yes, we could, if we could get out from under the fragmented party system of schisms that holds us in bondage. Yes, we could truly accept one another.

We are not under obligation to examine every brother to see if he is in agreement with us on a myriad of issues, not related to salvation before we can accept him. How beautiful the thought that love transcends party lines. How beautiful the thought that love allows us to be different without being rejected. Can you imagine the differences that must have existed between the Jewish converts and the Gentile converts? The idea of rejection of family members is unnatural. Does a brother or sister in the flesh stop being so when he or she disagrees? The idea of acceptance is a scriptural idea, and overwhelmingly so. How beautiful the thought to accept one another as Christ accepted us. Brethren, this is a direct command. See Romans 15:7! This is a vital part of the LAW that should be written on our hearts. Can we ignore it without serious consequences?

Please think on these things. I believe them to be true to the Word.