Be in Peace
Paul exhorted his brethren in Christ to “Be in peace among yourselves” (1 Thess. 5: 13). Alas! How often the opposite has been true! Too frequently there is a state of cannibalism among the Lord’s people: “but if ye bite and devour one another, see that ye are not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5: 15). Consumed—reduced to nothing! Are there not many meetings where there is but a tiny residue left? It has not been the wrecker from without—we have perished in mutual slaughter. More than one saint bears the mark of this deadly conflict, and more than one has died of a broken heart. “In the world” we shall “have tribulation” (John 16: 33), but we have a right to expect better things in the Assembly!
In correcting wrongs among saints, our own wisdom has often been more evident than “the wisdom which comes down from above” (James 3: 15). Frequently, we make the mistake that it is all about righteousness and holiness. It does not say that the wisdom from above is only pure, but “first is pure” (James 3: 17, my emphasis), clearly implying that it has other qualities as well. It is also “peaceful, gentle, yielding, full of mercy and good fruits, unquestioning, unfeigned”. One mourns that the traits of gentleness and mercy are far too often wanting in those who contend for purity. Purity is first, but it does not stand alone. One would not contend for the toleration of evil, for “holiness becometh thy house, O Jehovah, for ever” (Ps. 93: 5), but is holiness secured by sacrificing gentleness and mercy?
You cannot wash a brother’s feet with a club. You can make him black and blue, but this does not accomplish his cleansing. Nor is this really a long–distance action, as by a mop. You must be at his feet to really cleanse them (see John 13: 4–15). And do not forget the action of the towel. The thing should be done so thoroughly that nothing is left to even suggest to you that the brother ever needed cleansing. Is it an aggressive action? Not with a towel!
If there is one place more than another where we betray our unspirituality, it is in our inability to restore brethren who have failed: “Brethren, if even a man be taken in some fault, ye who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6: 1, my emphasis). The truth ought to have a reflex action with us: in directing it at others, we should feel the edge of it ourselves. God’s honour is as much connected with my conduct in setting things right, as with the conduct of the one who has gone wrong. In the light of our terrible collective history, we might ponder with profit Psalm 103: 8–14. How many are now without who might be within if our manner of handling matters had been different?
Again, is it not to be deplored that personal feeling is sometimes covered with a screen of concern for God’s glory? When you find the failures of some minimised, while those of others are magnified, you begin to see that this “concern” is not all that it seems. Is it not reprehensible also, to find a meeting broken up into little parties and factions, and persons treated accordingly? Do we honour His name, when those in ‘the clique’ are indulged, while others are abandoned to their fate?
I have spoken frankly, but what I have said needed to be said. The Lord pity us in our feebleness and failure. May we walk with bowed heads and chastened spirits, alive to Christ’s interests, while cultivating that love which covers a multitude of sins (see James 5: 20).