Romans 14:9 “we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
Psalms 133:1 “how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!”
Back home in Michigan for my niece’s wedding gave me opportunity to visit with family, which occurs not often enough since we’re spread around the country. One of the highlights of the trip was time spent in fellowship in Christ with my brother who hosted me for those few days. One evening, while he was engaged in his daily scripture reading we enjoyed discussing the great things of our Lord in Christian fellowship. This is one of the most pleasant things for me. Digging into the Word with a brother, glorifying God for the awesome, amazing things He has done for us, in the past and in the present. Leaving aside our differences in spiritual things we were able to enjoy our unity in the body of Christ.
By God’s grace I could ignore the things that could easily divide us, me being on the protestant-evangelical side, and he on the Roman Catholic side. But both being born of one Spirit, I was able to follow Paul’s admonition in Romans 14:3, “let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”
Also by God’s grace I view my brother being where God wants him, he lives a few blocks from my aging mother (Dad having passed away 5 years ago) the only sibling around to help her on a daily basis (for which all my brothers and sisters are grateful). He helps her out, driving her to church frequently (as both my parents were very devout Catholics), and is her one source of assistance in times of need. I see this as fulfilling a need for which God as placed him.
It is very easy for the evangelical to get caught up in the things that divide the members of the body of Christ. In centuries past wars were fought, inquisitions were held, saints were martyred, for such extreme divisions. Recently one of my brother’s neighbors, of the Protestant persuasion, conversed with him trying to evangelize my brother, using well worn arguments that have been used against Catholics for years. When he mentioned this exchange my thought expressed to him were that in these kinds of cases, very little is to be gained in such confrontation. There is little chance that either side will persuade the other, and the damage done to the fabric and unity of the body of Christ, both parties being children of God, would be regrettable, and of no profit. My suggestion was that in future exchanges expressions of unity in the glory of our inscrutable Savior and Lord Jesus Christ be emphasized. There is always more that can be shared and enjoyed when the focus in on the person of Christ and the glory that has been revealed to us in the person of His work on the cross and in His church. I suggested avoidance of the things that divide and focus on the unity we have in Christ. This is the emphasis Paul strives to make us understand in the 14th chapter of Romans.
I’m sure there is a time and a place to teach, instruct, and discuss the real meat of the Word. Paul sought this very thing in every one of his letters to the churches. However, the fellowship in Christ and with His church is not something to be casually assaulted, but nurtured. As Paul states, summarizing the unity of the body, in verses 17-19, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]