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As Christians, when we deal with one another, it must be out of humility and kindness. Firstly, we must recognize that we did not come to the faith out of our own intelligence; we did not reason ourselves into the faith. Faith only comes from God as a gift. Therefore, any theological conviction, while it may be held firmly, should also be held graciously. We should not despise our brothers for their lack of knowledge or puff ourselves up for what God Himself has revealed. In our conversations with unbelievers, it is often said that we should not add offense to the gospel for it is offensive enough. How much more should we display that restraint with our brothers!
Secondly, the fruit of the Spirit is not a personal preference. In our actions and reactions, the glory of God should govern us. The apostle Paul, in Romans 8, announces that God predestined believers “to become conformed to the image of His Son.” All of our thoughts, words, and actions are to be conformed to the image of Christ – even to the point of lowering ourselves. In Philippians 2, Paul charges believers to “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Following the example of our Savior, we must empty ourselves and must, as Paul directs further in Philippians 2, “with humility of mind regard one another as more important than [ourselves].” Therefore, in obedience to God, we must “love our neighbor as [ourselves]” (Mark 12:31). This love of neighbor will be evidenced in the kindness we give to our fellow believers in our conversation and fellowship. A mutual dying-to-self will take place in the midst of this cooperation.
However, cooperation must not end in the compromise of truth. We should not cooperate for cooperation’s sake. The truth should not be sacrificed on the altar of unity. In Matthew 28:19 & 20, Jesus commands the disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." Furthermore, the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks in question three, “What do the scriptures principally teach?” It answers, “The scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.” In short, doctrine is important. Our theology is not a trifle to be ignored or swept under the rug. Making an idol of cooperation will not sharpen anyone’s iron. Instead it will curse those who hope in it.
In this matter, as in many others, there is a Biblical tension. We must cling to the truth as it has been revealed in the scripture. It must be our source of theology and doctrine. And, it must be our guide in cooperation with our fellow believers. If we are kind and humble, our discussions with our Christian brothers can be a great blessing; our lives can demonstrate the power of God to one another. True, godly cooperation can result in growth in grace and in faith. And that is a goal for which is worth striving.
*All scripture references come from the New American Standard Version.