Church Issues and Love

by Edward O. Bragwell

Throughout church history, divisive issues have arisen among Christians, even to this present day. While this should concern us, it should not cause excessive alarm. They are to be expected. After all, the apostle Paul wrote in the First Century: "For, in the first place, when you assemble as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized" (I Corinthians 11:18-19 RSV). Just a causal reading of the New Testament shows that a large part of it deals with early schisms.

During my own lifetime, I have seen a goodly number of church rifts. After the dust settled and dividing lines were drawn, many Monday morning quarterbacks, who were either nowhere near or had chosen to remain aloof during the gut-wrenching struggle, freely alleged that had there been more love by all parties it would not have happened.

It is simply amazing how many people think that all church problems, no matter their nature, can be completely solved with more love. That would be true if they were all hate based. However, in more cases than not, problems spring from deeper disagreements over fundamental Bible teaching. It is possible to love one another dearly while still divided over vital moral and spiritual convictions. While love can help repair any breach of fellowship, it is not the "magic bullet" for completely solving all differences.

These folks see doctrinal differences as being no obstacle to unity if all have the right attitude. These minimize the seriousness of issues caused by doctrinal error and moral turpitude. They do not see why the parties cannot meet and work together, united by love for each other. They look for ways to reduce fundamental Bible-based convictions to the level of insignificance. Love is everything to them.

About 45 years ago, three other preachers and I met with four preachers of different persuasion to discuss some of the differences between us. The prayer at the beginning the session signaled how little would be accomplished by the discussions. Among other things, the man prayed, "Lord, we thank you for love. We know that love is everything. We know that love is more important than being right."