Oh yea, you probably have one or likely more. I do too, so I’m not trying to step on your toes, I’m trying to sort out some truth on the subject, so consider the following thoughts.
In my adopted tribe, I often hear (or read) discussions about who XYZ church will “fellowship” and who they will not and why. The litmus test varies, but it’s usually instrumental music in worship or no, it’s about baptism, how it’s done and what is said when it’s done, and for what purpose, and a garden variety of other things.
Take heart Cambellites, it isn’t just us. In other groups the Reformed leaning brothers will not associate with the free will brothers, the KJV only people do not consider the NIV people Christians, the pre-trib folks are certain they are more holy than the post-trib people and on and on ad naseaum.
Ready for a shocker? What if God isn’t as concerned about all that stuff as we are? What if He wants us to act in loving, sacrificial ways toward one another?
1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, 3For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written,”The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
I suppose all of us would rather not be around some others who wear the name “Christian” and consider those rejects “weak” don’t we? I mean, after all, if they were strong in the faith they would believe and do everything right, like us! Wow, have we missed the mark!
The Purpose of unity: The glory of God
There is no higher purpose than the glory of God. Denominational purity, the ancient pattern for the Lord’s church, the praise of men, defending the faith once for all delivered to the saints… Everything pales in comparison to God’s glory. Every good He accomplishes is for his own glory, even our common salvation has that end.
We are charged (and empowered) to live in such harmony, that each life is lived with a single goal, so that the goal of what we do and the result of what we do are the same, God gets glory!
that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
The Path to unity: The good of others
It sounds as if Paul is describing Jesus doesn’t it?
bear with the failings of the weak
not to please ourselves
Let each of us please his neighbor,
for his good
What? It’s not about ME? Are you kidding? It’s not even about my church tradition and doctrine? It’s about God and others?…oh my, have we missed the mark a country mile!
The Plan for unity: Welcome others as Christ has welcomed you
Your Bible might say “accept one another”, or “receive one another”, but “welcome” is perhaps the best translation. It’s different to grudgingly allow someone to enter your home, like a magazine sales person, or to receive someone because of some outside pressure, like an anniversary party. It is quite another to “welcome” someone in. You want them there, you are glad they are there, and you intend to show them gracious hospitality. That is the idea in this passage.
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you
Each of us were welcomed by Christ when we didn’t deserve to be welcomed. We were welcomed while we were enemies for goodness sake! We did not have all the answers, we didn’t have any answers really. Our doctrine was not flawless. Our worship was not pure and perfect according to the NT pattern. But…we were “welcomed” by Christ who loved us..first. We were welcomed…”for the glory of God”.
But they clap and jump up and down when they worship we protest. A voice asks softly “How were you welcomed?” They are just flat wrong about baptism and I…. “How were you welcomed?” The’re Calvinists and everyone knows they are wrong and dangerous! I know my Bible and I know my rights…. “How were you welcomed?”
My toes are sore. Those who are living under the banner of Jesus Christ, I must accept, must welcome, thinking of their good, not mine, for God’s glory, not my ego. This is the standard of fellowship. It’s harder than drawing a line in the dirt and choosing sides. For you see, someone who is not really a Christian can do that. No, this is far more difficult. It requires a selfless love for others and a heart that wants to glorify God. This way is the way of Christ who welcomed you and me.
It’s a great big family! Let’s love them and glorify God.