Published in the March 1999 issue of "The Word and Work" Magazine, Louisville, KY.
The way some of us in the church are acting it would seem that we think that the body of Christ should have only one hand. There are others who act as though they thought the body should be a torso without any limbs.
What did I mean by these statements? Simply this: from as far back as I can remember, we in the Restoration Movement have found it virtually impossible to acknowledge our need for each other if we happen to be opposite types. We tend continually to polarize into "right" and "left" sides and cut each other off. Thus, in spite of Paul saying in I Corinthians 12:21, that the eye cannot say to the hand that it has no need of it, we go right ahead and act as if the right and left hands should say they have no need of each other! Moreover, some members who are caught in the crossfire begin to wish that the church had no right or left hands at all but that it simply be a body without limbs.
Why are right and left sides so afraid of each other? Mainly because we fear that if opposite types are allowed to remain in fellowship with each other they will tend to "contaminate" each other and one or the other will go to an extreme and take the church with it into error.
It seems to me, however, that many years of history have shown that just the opposite is true: when opposites have REACTED to each other instead of INTERACTING, they have driven each other to extremes which were both erroneous. The resulting divisions, therefore, could not be characterized as one side being wholly right and the other side wholly wrong, but rather both sides being partly right and partly wrong. If they had stayed together, instead of polarizing and cutting each other off, each side would have contributed toward correcting the erroneous tendencies of the other and saved it from going too far.
Another way of looking at this is to notice that when "right" and "left" sides have emerged in our history we have failed to see that they were usually "polar" opposites, that is, opposite ends of a "pole." By definition, polar opposites belong to each other and must not be separated. There are, of course, some opposites which are not polar, such as "right" and "wrong," which do not belong to each other. But it is of the essence of a "pole" that it have two ends (just as it is essential that a "body" have two hands). Since we have often failed to recognize this fact we have tended to "solve" the problem of opposites among us by cutting our "pole" in half and dividing the body. In so doing it was our purpose to rid ourselves of error. Ironically, such action has not accomplished what we intended because what we had after dividing has been not one pole with only one end, but two poles, each with two ends! This has led us to cut the resulting two poles in half and to find ourselves with four poles with eight "ends" of left and right! And so on endlessly.
It ought to be clear enough by now that we are never going to solve our existing divisions by endlessly dividing. Rather, we are going to have to learn to do what Paul told the "meat eating" and "vegetable eating" brethren in Rome to do: to quit despising and judging each other and receive one another as Christ has received both "to the glory of God" (Romans 15:7). But that is going to take some doing! We have such deep antipathies for each other that it almost makes us sick to think about loving and respecting each other. But whether we like it or not we are going to have to learn to INTER-act instead of RE-act; to approach each other with humility and genuine appreciation in the realization that we really do NEED each other. With such an attitude we will be able to see that those on "the other side" are not simply wrong about some things but are also right about other things on which we have been mistaken. Thus we will progressively teach and correct each other until we will both be closer to the truth than if we had remained divided enemies.
By deciding to interact we will quit "writing each other off" as being impossible to deal with and will begin to patiently learn from each other until we have all together come to a full-orbed knowledge of the truth. In this way we will begin to discover the unity of the Spirit which Paul said we are to maintain (Ephesians 4:3) "until we all attain the unity of the faith" (Ephesians 4:13). Too often we have gotten this backwards by insisting that we must attain the unity of the faith before we can have the unity of the Spirit. But the first sixteen verses of Ephesians four, would seem to suggest that only to the extent that we remain united in the Spirit can we ever come to the unity of the faith. Apparently God has so arranged things that it is impossible for us to come to a full knowledge of the truth while separated from any of our brethren, it takes all of us working together.
Part of what this means is well expressed by Paul in Ephesians 5:21 when he admonishes us to "be subject to one another." This is the only foundation on which healthy interpersonal relationships can be built, whether they be those between husbands and wives, parents and children, or employers and employees, as well as brothers and sisters in the church. The least this can mean is that we listen to each other and be willing to learn from each other. Thus we will see ourselves as supplementing each other rather than as adversaries.
Harry Robert Fox
For more information, contact the author of this article:
Harry R. Fox, Jr.
276 N. El Camino Real, #60, Oceanside, CA 92058 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
Edited and uploaded to the web on 10/26/00
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 12/12/09.