Extending a Hand and Standing Firm

By Mark A. Taylor

PrintThe cover headline on Christian Standard’s July 2, 2006 edition was “We Are NOT the Only Christians.” The lead article was from a book written by Rick Atchley and Bob Russell, a small volume about Christian unity titled Together Again*. The book’s publication coincided with the historic 2006 North American Christian Convention, whose theme and goal was to repair wounds and open doors between a cappella churches of Christ and independent, instrumental Christian churches and churches of Christ.

But the book talked about more than that division. It also offered a challenge for how we view and how we relate to everyone who calls himself a follower of Christ:

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.

Since 2006, the unity drumbeat has been growing louder. The testimonies this month underscore a perspective that has become common among Christian churches and churches of Christ: We live in a degenerating culture desperate for the salt, light, and redemption that only the church can offer. In a sea of drowning seekers, we can’t waste time arguing about the size of our boat or the color of the life preserver. Let’s work together to reconcile people to God.

But this doesn’t mean doctrine doesn’t matter. Our historic positions, for example, on baptism and the Lord’s Supper stand on clear scriptural teaching and centuries of practice. We need not compromise such distinctives to work with those whose understandings don’t match ours.

As I wrote in 2006, we need not agree with everything we choose to allow. We need not advocate everything we accommodate. We can extend the hand of fellowship to all who claim Christ and at the same time stand firm on what our study of Scripture has convinced us is true. The times demand we do both.

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*Order Together Again, item 03036, at www.standardpub.com.

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