Love for the Brethren

by Adam Grey  |   Faith & Heritage

What is Christian brotherhood if it is not mutual allegiance, love, and practical aid?

In Romans 14:19 St. Paul tells us that we are to overlook our differences of opinion in order to have genuine unity amongst one another, and to mutually edify one another. Yet simple observation of the pro-white movement — let alone the history of Christianity — would tell you a different story. If there is one thing people like us are good at, it is at drawing divisions between ourselves and our kinsmen. A century ago a famous preacher said that brothers and sisters are often more jealous of one another than they are of total strangers. I’d say this claim holds true in our day.

When Paul wrote those words centuries ago, he was telling Christians who ate meat sacrificed to idols not to look down on Christians who refused to eat meat sacrificed to idols. The two groups had different ideas of what it meant to be faithful to God in that situation. They each held to their views with clean consciences. They were both offended by the views of the other party. They had mutually exclusive views based on Scripture.

They also probably thought the other group’s practice would be bad optics.

It’s interesting to note that in Christian history, factions have often developed certain applications of scriptural truth that are mutually exclusive. It’s perplexing given the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture, but it persists anyway even among people that are not in open, clear error. Paedobaptists and credobaptists. Episcopalians, presbyterians, and congregationalists. Exclusive psalmody vs. non-exclusive hymnody. Regulative principle of worship vs. normative principle of worship. The list could go on.

Paul didn’t anathematize either of the warring factions. He could have. Instead, he told them to help one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Later in 1 Corinthians 10 he touched on the topic again, writing that food offered to false gods was in fact offered to demons (v. 20-21) but that their power was nothing whereas God had rightful ownership of the food (v. 19, 25-27). The underlying theology was that God owns everything and we His children have a right to enjoy what God has made for us to enjoy. However, the underlying ethic was the same as stated in Romans 14:19: we must use food in such a way as to build one another up in the Faith (vv. 32-33). In this way, we bring glory to God (v. 31).

In practice, there are reasons why things that are relatively small (compared to the central truths of the Faith) become important. It’s impossible to be a consistent Baptist in a Lutheran church, for example. Something has got to give. It’s also impossible to be a consistent revolutionary who waves Old Glory and works for the federal government. There too, one or the other belief has to give way at points. That creates tension and anxiety for all involved.

But the fact is that there are people like us who are seated in places of establishment power — just like Nicodemus, and like the believers who served in Caesar’s household centuries ago (Phil. 4:22). The fact is that there are Baptists in Lutheran churches, and Lutherans in Baptist churches. There are reasons why people make compromises in order to maintain, in a bad situation, the best standard of obedience to God that they can manage at the time. This world is a very messed up place, and choices are often not clear-cut.

Do you think the vegetarian Christians in the first century, and the omnivorous Christians in that era, felt any less strongly about what divided them than we do about what divides us theologically, culturally, or politically today?

I don’t believe any of us are immune to the national pastime of shaming and outrage. It also seems logical that as members of our European race, we are innately gifted at dividing from one another. When you follow the white rabbit you find out that there are plenty of important things to get outraged or adamant about.

The question is whether we build walls to divide ourselves, or reserve that work to protect us from actual hostiles. We ought to pray for the conversion of blue-haired, tattoo-clad, debt-burdened SJWs, but barring the true Damascus Road experience, most won’t budge an inch in Christ’s direction. Things are a little more hopeful for our misguided cuckservative brethren.

However, I have a hard time seeing how it doesn’t grieve God’s heart that we few, this tiny band of brothers and sisters that have a hold on the pivotal truths of our age, are as disunited as we are. This isn’t a criticism of what is being done, but it is a criticism of what isn’t being done, and why that is the case. I’d argue that it’s not fundamentally because of our enemies. I also don’t think it’s because of a lack of wisdom, or courage, or intelligence. We’ve got those in bucketloads. I’d say it’s because we have a lack of love for one another. The kind of love that is both felt, acted upon, and persisted in even when it’s uncomfortable.

Imagine what those Roman Christians must have had to do to embrace one another despite their sincere, deeply-felt differences over eating meats offered to idols. And yet it was required of them. It was not a suggestion. It was not temporarily expedient. It was, in fact, the means of their greater sanctification. For how else could they fulfill Christ’s commandment: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35)? Love for one another would be the distinguishing mark of who was Christ’s follower. Like the fibers of a muscle, deeds that manifest love for one another are the cords that draw us together, give us strength, and make us formidable against our foes.

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. . . . These things I command you, that ye love one another. (John 15:9-14, 17)

Christ then juxtaposed His “new commandment” against the reality that the whole world would be against His people. In the very next breath after He told us to “love one another,” He said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19).

How can we be Christ’s, and how can we hope to make progress in this cause, if we do not do our utmost to fulfill this commandment to love one another?

When the lions awaited, the Roman believers must have regretted all the wasted energy, lost opportunities, and needless struggles they endured apart from one another, when they could have been enjoying one another’s company, helping one another practically, and loving God together.

Our differences are going to look pretty stupid when we’re all suffering together.

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