By George Card
Jesus said that all the people would know we are his disciples by the love we have one for another. (John 13:55), but instead of love, very often Christians have given hate to each other. In the past, we have waged wars over doctrinal issues. Fortunately we have gotten beyond killing each other. But the hatred remains.
Today's religious wars are not fought with swords, but with words; and words do hurt. (Proverbs 18:8) Some of the most vicious, spiteful, vindictive and bitter arguments are between Christians. And many of those fights are over a mere trifling. Some small matters might seem silly to some of us, but some Christians actually take them so seriously, they are willing to split a church over it.
Some denominations have split over whether a woman should wear a veil or not, or over some other equally inconsequential issue. Each side claims to be right and none is willing to compromise. They soon begin a war of words calling each other names. Intransigence over minor differences and are the reason for so many different denominations.
Denomination A blasting Denomination B; Post-tribulationists bashing pre-tribulationists, global flood believers trashing local flood believers, Calvinists disparaging Armenians, and so on and on. It has become a war zone, and this war must stop. The Apostle Paul admonished the minister of the gospel to be a humble person, who avoids disputes, but instead concentrates in teaching the truth. (II Timothy 2:22-26)
Should we then sacrifice our doctrinal differences for the sake of peace? No. We have a mandate to defend the truth. (Jude 3) But defending the truth can be done in a spirit of cooperation and even goodwill. Is it possible to defend truth and attack false doctrine, without attacking a fellow believer? Yes it is. The Apostle Paul told us to speak the truth in love, because it is possible to speak the truth in hate. (Ephesians 4:15)
Religious doctrines need to be discussed, so they can be corrected, accepted, or rejected; But all within boundaries of decency and order. Sometimes we may have to reach some compromise and rework our doctrinal statements to encompass both sides of the dispute. One church had disputes about speaking in tongues in a spirit of compromised they decided that they would not prohibit the speaking in tongue and accept it as a valid gift of the spirit but at the same time those who spoke in tongues would stop demanding that everyone in the congregation spoke in tongues. Their motto was simple ‘forbid not, demand not.’ The ability to work out a compromise that satisfied both groups prevented a church split.
So you see it is possible for a church to include some things without making them mandatory for all the members of the church. Paul said let not the brother who eats meat despise those who only eat herbs or the brother who only eats herbs judge those who eat meat. How about let not the sister who wears a veil despise those who do not wear the veil and let not those who do not wear a veil judge those who wear a veil. The problem is that religious discussions quickly become heated, when one party, resorts to personal attacks, or other tricks of argumentation.
God knew that we would divide over doctrinal issues. That is why Jesus commanded love as the unifying factor. Learning to love our brethren in spite of our differences, is not easy, but is possible. After all there are more things that unite Christians, than divide them.