Receiving The Believers
The importance of receiving the believers is illustrated by an experience we had during the early days of the church life in Los Angeles. Three other Christian groups desired to come together with us for the church life. One group had a background of Pentecostalism, and another group had a background of fundamental Bible teaching.
When I learned of their desire and excitement over the prospect of meeting together, I reminded them that throughout the centuries Christians have been divided by their opinions about doctrines and practices.
Have To Drop Their Opinions And Receive All Genuine Believers
Furthermore, I told them that if they would come together for the church life according to Romans 14, they would have to drop their opinions and receive all genuine believers in Christ, no matter how different they were in either doctrine or practice. They agreed to set aside their differences and meet together in oneness for the church life.
In the meeting place we hung some banners. One read, “Variety versus Uniformity”; another, “Unity in Variety”; and another, “All One in Christ.”
After a very short period of time, however, those from a Pentecostal background began to insist on the practices of speaking in tongues and of playing tambourines in the meetings. Those from a Bible-teaching background could not tolerate this and refused to go along with it.
I asked those who opposed speaking in tongues and playing tambourines to bear with those who favored these things. However, they declined to do so.
Then I asked those who advocated these practices to care for the feeling of the others. They also refused, insisting that there was nothing wrong with what they were doing.
Eventually, due to the inability on both sides to accept believers with different doctrines and practices, these groups were not able to meet together in oneness for the practice of the church life.
A General Attitude
The Lord can testify on our behalf that in our practice of the church life we have been general, receiving all different kinds of believers. For instance, we do not stop the saints from speaking in tongues, but neither do we insist on tongues-speaking.
Nevertheless, we have been accused of narrowness. Actually it is those in the denominations who are narrow, for they do not receive all different kinds of Christians.
Throughout the years we have been in Los Angeles, we have never rejected any genuine believer in Christ. Furthermore, we have not adjusted others. On the contrary, we have been learning simply to minister life to all who come.
Paul Didn’t Approach The Question Of Eating And Observing Days In A Doctrinal Way
In Romans 14 Paul’s attitude was very general. Doctrinally speaking, Paul knew that the believers were free to eat meat as well as vegetables. But he did not approach the question of eating in a doctrinal way. Instead, he expressed a general attitude toward all believers; he despised neither those who ate only vegetables nor those who ate everything. His attitude was the same with respect to observing days.
Neither Imposing A Certain Practice Nor Opposing It
In order to have the proper practice of the Body life, we must have such a general attitude. We should neither impose a particular practice on others nor should we oppose a certain practice.
Take the example of praising the Lord by shouting. Some may oppose this and condemn it as being disorderly, whereas those who favor it may seek to impose it on others.
Both attitudes are wrong. If we prefer silence in the meetings, we should not impose our view on others. Likewise, if we prefer shouting, we should not impose this on anyone.
The same is true regarding pray-reading. If some want to practice pray-reading, they should be free to do so. But if others do not care for this practice, it should not be forced upon them.
It Is Not Easy Because We Want Others To Be The Same As We Are
In the church life we must be general, able to receive all genuine believers. However, it is not easy to learn this lesson, because we all want others to be the same as we are.
Let us not make demands of others or require that they change their way for our sake. Rather, let us have unity in variety and variety without conformity. Even though there may be such variety, we still are one in Christ.