by Mason French
When I was a young boy, I watched my best friend change from a happy cheerful boy to a shy, and unhappy friend. The only one, he talked to was me. His whole personality changed when his parents got a divorce. Prior to the divorce, there was a lot of yelling and pouting by the parents. Somehow, my friend seemed to think the divorce was his fault. Both parents assured him that they loved him, but he never really accepted that. Now, he would spend his summers with his father and the rest of the year with his mother. My friend finally moved away with his mother, and we lost contact. I experienced my first encounter with a divided house.
On December 7, 1941, War was declared, and I was terrified. But, something wonderful happened. In the crisis, the American people united. They had a common enemy, and they put aside their differences and concentrated on beating the enemy. The nation was indeed one. I planted a “victory garden” in my small effort to help in some way. In fact, people all over the country planted these gardens. Somehow (I never figured out how), it helped win the war to grow our own garden. We were assured that it did. It was a wonderful feeling being a part of something bigger than ourselves.
After the war, slowly the nation that was united began to divide. The people began to fight over race, politics, women working, music, etc. Now people were building block walls between their properties to keep their neighbor out. Instead of having one enemy, every person that disagreed with their ideas was suddenly the enemy. People just did not like each other, and I wondered what had changed? But, thinking about it, the problem was easy to identify. People had become selfish. The people no longer worked as a unit, selfishness set in instead. There was no common enemy, and every man worked for his own good.
In 1955, I obeyed the gospel, after being in a denominational church. Jesus pointed out that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Luke 11:17). I could see clearly what the problem was in the religious world. “Denominations!” Anyone that could see through a ladder could see that division was wrong (I Cor. 1:10). We preached and taught against denominations from the house tops, on the streets, in home Bible classes, and from pulpits. And, we were, and are, right in doing this. God hates division. While we condemned the divided religious world, we forgot to look at our own house. How divided are we? Have many of us become denominations while we talk against denominationalism? I know that everyone has not, but, in general, where are we headed?
I recognize that the Lord’s church cannot be divided in the universal sense. But, congregations can. And, I have observed a lot of just plain dislike, if not hatred, between congregations. The picture to a lost and dying world is not a good one, to say the least. Instead of being just God’s people, many times we are certain kinds of God’s people. We identify the church we belong to with whatever our issues might be. It is a sad thing when people ask what kind of church of Christ you are affiliated with. We tend to identify ourselves with our differences instead of our relationship. We bring our personal beliefs into the congregation and try to find brethren that will endorse our personal convictions. Then, we cast stones at all that do not agree.
We use such passages as Amos 3:3 “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” We think the meaning has to be that we have to agree upon everything that is doctrinal. Could it be, that the passage is referring to our agreement to walk, instead of agreement on doctrine? People agree to walk in things they have in common. Think of it! Could husband and wife agree on everything that is important in order to walk together? Or, do they agree to walk together even though they differ on some major points? Doesn’t Romans 14 teach that brethren disagree upon matters of faith?
I recognize that there is a time when disagreement is such that division will occur. That will indeed occur when someone is trying to force the other party into submission on what the other party cannot see the Bible teaching.
This really came home to me recently. A brother had written on why he believed that the teaching of Jesus in what we call the “four gospels” was Old Testament teaching. Another brother had written that the only reason he believed it was to get rid of the teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage in Matthew 5:32; 19:9. I wondered how this one that was criticizing could possibly know why this person believed what he did and why he believed it? I thought, “Wow! Since I believe that most all of Jesus’ teaching while here on earth was Old Testament teaching, he must be talking to me, also.” I don’t believe what I believe to get rid of any kind of teaching. I just believe that is what is being taught. And, I will believe it until someone shows me clearly that my belief is not so, or, I study myself out of it. It is easy to impugn the motives of the other party when they disagree with what you believe you see clearly.
We have come to the point that we are afraid to ask any preacher to preach for us. We must know what his position is one every question in the brotherhood (or at least our favorite position) for him to preach for us. Why would anyone be afraid to hear someone preach? Surely we can study the truth upon the subject. And, where did we get the idea that if a congregation disagrees with us on a subject that, if invited to preach for them, we had to preach on whatever the issue is that we disagree upon? More disagreements are settled in a study session instead of a blasting session. Now, I realize that different situations require different measures. But, why are we so intent upon forcing agreement even if it requires dividing?
One brother has even taken out a whole web page on whether or not the “innocent” person that is put away can later put the one that put them away — away if the one that put them away commits fornication. Kind of sounds confusing doesn’t it? And, of course, anyone that disagrees with that position cannot be fellowshipped. That seems to be pushing it to the limit by something that seems to be radical. In fact, it seems that those that have branded folks as false teachers are now being branded the same by the more radical.
Well, I usually use more scripture, but, I just wanted us to think about a house divided. It seems like this will effect those in the world (John 13:35).