LOVE OF THE BRETHREN A CRUCIAL TEST
"Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren
to dwell together in unity."--Psa. 133:1.
PSALM 133is evidently prophetic and seems to refer to the brethren in "the Church, which is the Body of Christ." This thought is implied in the second verse, which says, "It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments," which is a picture of the Holy Spirit running down over the Body of Christ, the Church.
The Psalm seems to be specially applicable to our day, although it has always been a pleasant sight to see brethren dwelling together in unity. In times of persecution there would be greater unity, because there would be fewer likely to attach themselves to the Church; outside persecutions would be likely to deter all but the truly consecrated. Such persecutions all would be likely to feel, and only those who had common interest and common cause would be drawn together.
But as persecution would cease and as more would come into the Church, who were not so zealous, the opportunities for differences would seem to increase. Although today there is much opposition to the children of light, there is, apparently, little persecution. The Truth has attracted a number, some of whom, probably, are not all that they should be. In fact, none of them are what they desire to be--copies of God's dear Son; but each and all should be striving to attain to the standard.
CAUSES OF FRICTION INCREASING
It might at first seem strange that there would be any friction between these favored children of God. One would suppose that their hearts would be so filled with the Holy Spirit that there would be no room for the weeds of hatred, envy, strife, jealousy, and that these would be crowded out by the fruits of the Spirit. Perhaps such was the condition when we first made our consecration; and there was no room for these works of the flesh. But it seems that the causes of friction are increasing rather than diminishing. It is proper, therefore, that we should note the source of the difficulty and thus be enabled to ward off the danger and to be peacemakers amongst the brethren. "Ye that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak." (Rom. 15:1.) If this standard be the measure, there are not so many strong as we might have hoped; therefore, it behooves each of us to become strong and helpful to the weak brethren in the Church.
One thing to be considered is that there is more opportunity for friction amongst those who are spirit-begotten New Creatures than there is amongst the world, as a whole; that is to say, a company of people in the nominal Church would find it easier to live together in unity and peace than would a company of people more thoroughly enlightened, energized by the Truth. This statement might seem strange at first, but becomes more apparent as we examine. In the nominal Church religion is more a matter of form. With nominal Christians it is customary to dress up and attend meetings, to sit quietly and then to return home. Pleasant things are noticed, as, for instance, the sunshine, the flowers, the bonnets. Thus the day passes. But with those more enlightened there is a greater activity of mind, of thought. We, too, love the flowers, and all things provided for us by our Heavenly Father. We discuss these--and there is much opportunity for discussion; for as no two persons look exactly alike, so no two persons think exactly alike.
Some of the Lord's people boast that they do their own thinking. But the wisest course is for us to do our own believing. Some subjects are matters of inference and not of knowledge. We are taught of God. He tells us thus and so in His Word, and, if we accept these propositions as they come from the Lord, we can do so without too much discussion. It is pleasant, of course, for us to philosophize on the teachings of God's Word; it is our privilege to believe that which the Lord has stated to us. But whatever philosophizing we do should be kept in restraint and in harmony with the Divine statement. And when we remember that while we are philosophizing each other one is philosophizing also, we see where comes in the doctrinal difficulty.
These different doctrinal matters are drawn from the Scriptures. But as soon as we begin to reason about the things not written, there is danger of conflict. Whoever sticks most closely to the Word of God will thereby not only do himself good, but will also be able to avoid controversy with other brethren and their philosophies. We presume that the Lord would not be averse to our having certain reflections along certain lines. We are, nevertheless, to remember that if we have a thought and present it to the brethren, and it does not seem logical to them, we are not to force it upon them, nor are they to force their views upon us. The difficulty seems to be that there is a tendency in such matters to fight each thought to the finish, to want everybody to agree with us, whereas the proper way is to be content and let the matter rest.
Each brother has a right to his own opinion. We have no right to make our own views tests. The things that are tests are the things given us in the Scriptures; as, for instance, it is a test with us and as to our standing with the brethren that we should believe that Jesus Christ is the Anointed One and the Savior of the world; that we are to be joint-heirs with Him and share in His inheritance; that we are bought with a price; that we are to have share with our Lord in the sufferings of this present time and in the glories to follow.
Such plain Scriptural statements are to be the ground of our belief, and not any fanciful interpretations put on them by some others. Some see the more general outlines; some see the details and fail to see the general outline. While those who possess the different casts of mind are to be neither blamed nor praised, yet they must grasp the thought that we are to be willing to suffer for the Truth--in our loyalty to God, to the brethren and to the Truth in general.
THE TRUTH ATTRACTS STRONG CHARACTERS
We are to remember that these brethren who find it so difficult to dwell together in unity have this difficulty in part because of their real intrinsic worth, or character. There are some people whose characters are like putty; there are others in whom you can make a momentary dent, as in a rubber ball; still others are like diamonds. The class that are diamond-like have attained a firmness of texture, of character. If we put a number of balls of putty, a number of rubber balls and a number of diamonds into a pan and shake them well, the diamonds will scratch everything with which they come in contact, because they are so hard. The Lord is not looking for the rubber ball class now nor for the putty class. In due time the Lord will deal with all classes--the people who are of the putty kind and the people who are of the rubber ball kind. But we know that the Truth is appealing now only to the jewel class, the diamond class.
When learning that there is danger of stumbling each other, wounding each other, the knowledge should give [R4994 : page 99] us wisdom. We should be appreciative of the fact that these brethren have real characters, and that they are not of the putty kind. Even their differences show character. We should try to appreciate the fact and so to exercise ourselves as not to irritate them. We are to counsel them, and to remember that they, as New Creatures, are just as desirous of pleasing the Lord as we are. We must, therefore, have patience with each other. There is one text in the New Testament which declares, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." (I John 3:14.) The intimation is that some of the brethren would be hard to love, and that, unless we had passed from death unto life, we would be unable to love them.
The Truth seems to take hold on the stronger characters rather than on the weaker ones. The former have in their flesh more of the firmness, grittiness and combativeness than have many others, who are too pliable and "wishy-washy" to be acceptable to the Lord as members of the "little flock" of overcomers. Thus we see that the very quality which makes us acceptable to the Lord and which is one qualification of the overcoming position, is a serious disadvantage in some respects, when a number of these come together as a Church.
Even a diamond surrounded by mud would cut nothing, would scratch nothing; but place a dozen diamonds together, and the more you get rid of the mud element the more gritting, scouring and cutting there is likely to be. So it is with the Lord's jewels--the more they come together, the more they get wakened up, the more opportunities there will be for friction, and the greater necessity there will be that all be thoroughly imbedded in and covered with the Holy Spirit, which, like oil, is smooth and unctuous and tends to prevent friction.