Can We Allow What We Do Not Advocate?

By Mark A. Taylor

How do you react when a member of your family sees almost everything differently than you?

You prefer news and documentaries, but she thrives on reality shows.

You count calories and fat grams while she gorges on donuts and french fries.

You used your last vacation to go on a mission trip. His last time off was to Las Vegas and Disneyland.

You give 12 percent of your income to the church. He’s so deep in debt he does well to toss a few dollars into the offering plate.

Do you insist that your family member get his act together before you’re willing to eat dinner with him? Or have you learned to allow what you’ll never advocate ? Have you discovered that fellowship does not require agreement ? And, in the process have you realized that your errant brother or sister nevertheless has much to offer? When you treated him or her as an equal, did you learn something yourself? And thereby did the door open for you to teach something too?

If so, you’ve found joy, but you know it isn’t easy. And difficult as this is at home, such an attitude is even harder to find at church. In fact, when it comes to a different church down the street, many of us have found fellowship in the face of disagreement almost impossible.

This week’s issue contains two articles about reconciliation and unity. These have been the theme of much talk and many meetings this year, including the North American Christian Convention, June 27 30 in Louisville. Many want to heal the wounds between two fellowships of Christians who have more in common than some in each group realize.

Time will tell what these talks, what this convention, will achieve in helping these groups fellowship and work together. But some are concerned about a greater separation than that between Christian churches and a cappella churches of Christ.

They want to discuss how members of the Restoration Movement should react to the broader ocean of Christ followers. Can we, like very different members in the same family, continue to advocate what we believe to be true, while we allow other believers to see things differently than we do? Bob Russell and Rick Atchley put it well in the excerpt we’re printing this week:

Accepting someone as a brother does not endorse everything he says or does. It’s time we admit that grace had better cover errors in belief as well as practice, or we are all in trouble. . . . If a group claims to be in submission to the Lord Jesus and sincerely seeks to follow his Word, then let’s call them brothers and sisters.

Can we muster this kind of grace? It requires of us no compromise. It demands only that we face such believers in love and humility and repeat what we say we’ve always believed: “We are Christians only, but we’re not the only Christians.”

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