The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: C

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Collyer on One body

Of all Scriptural principles, this may seem the simplest. Almost any brother or sister could expound it, could exhibit the beauty of the apostle's simile and reveal the folly of any member being either puffed up with an impression of superior office or depressed by lack of qualification for any particular form of service. Eye and ear and foot and hand all have worthy parts to play. A well equipped mouth is of no service if it fails to arrive at the place where it is wanted. The feet have to bring it. It may follow therefore that an inferior mouth would render better service if only it could be supported by better feet.

The principle is recognized at least in theory, and it needs no further theoretical exposition. Is it recognized in practice? Do we realize the object "that there should be no schism in the body"? Have members "the same care one for another"? So that if "one member suffer, all the members suffer with it"?

The apostle truly presents a high ideal, but it is the ideal at which we must aim if we want to be saved. All that we are told of the judgment seat tends to show that the supreme test is in these matters. If we are repudiated then, it will be because we have failed to live the Truth and not for inability to understand it. We are told that some will be punished for errors committed without adequate knowledge of their Lord's will; but assuredly it will not be because of inability to understand. It is our duty to know our Lord's will. The necessary instruction is given to us, and if we fail to hear and understand it is almost certain that an obstinate self-deception is at the root of the difficulty. Such obdurate self-deception is deserving of stripes.

A simple test will probably prove to all who are able to receive instruction that they have far to go in pursuit of the apostolic ideal. Have we the same care one for another? If one member suffers do we all suffer in sympathy, or if one member is honoured do we all rejoice? The natural tendency of the flesh is in the wrong direction under each of these headings. It is natural to have care for those who are the objects of our especial regard, and to be indifferent to all others. Of course, there will be special friendships in the Brotherhood, with different degrees and even different kinds of love. This is inevitable, and not at all incompatible with true fellowship. It is well to understand the distinction between the two words. Friendship is individual and peculiar. You cannot have ten thousand close friends. Fellowship is collective and comprehensive. You can be in true fellowship with any number. Friendship is at liberty to make selection of special companions. Just as a man in the Faith is at liberty to marry whom he will "only in the Lord", so is he at liberty to choose his special friends, assuming, of course, in both cases, that the desires are reciprocal and that the choice made is in harmony with the other commands of the Lord. Fellowship does not give us such liberty. We fellowship each other on the basis of the one Faith, and this may draw together men and women who are utterly different in taste and temperament. These differences will inevitably affect our choice of special friends but they ought not to affect our "care for one another" in the fellowship of the Gospel. The point can be illustrated without departure from the most ordinary experiences of life. If a brother or sister who is a very dear friend shows signs of weakness and a need for special help, we are ready to give any amount of care and attention to nurse the feeble one back to healthy faith. We would reprove any impatient critic, and find plenty of scripture to assist our advocacy of gentle methods. What long-suffering, patience, gentleness, and compassion are shown in our great example! How many injunctions there are to be kind, considerate, and forbearing! But are we quite as ready to think of these passages if the straying sheep is one whose personality repels us? Are we as ready to sacrifice rest and comfort in trying to assist the unattractive wanderer?

The question whether brethren attract us or repel us personally does not in the least degree affect the truth of their being members of the One Body, and we ought to have the "same care one for another", because of our fellowship in the Truth, unaffected by the affinities and preferences which belong to human personality. This, of course, as with many others duties, is unnatural. The natural tendency is to be "partial" in judgment. We may be quite innocent of showing any undue respect to the man with a gold ring or disrespect toward the one who is poorly clad, yet we may fall into an exactly similar error on a different basis. A dear friend has erred. Well, we remember how forbearing our Lord was with sinners. We must restore him in the spirit of meekness. One who always repelled us has erred. We remember how Samuel treated Agag; we remember the apostle's instructions to withdraw from those who are disorderly. We must be valiant for the Truth.

It is not suggested that all are under the sway of such fleshly instincts leading to such partiality of judgment. This, however is the natural tendency, and it is questionable whether even those who are most conscious of the weakness have overcome it entirely. Has there never been a time when in dealing with a friend, you have shown a consideration and patience far beyond anything you can muster for that other offender who does not interest you or possibly repels you? If there has been any such partiality, has it been an instance of weakness in dealing with a friend when you should have been valiant for the truth; or has it been harshness in dealing with another when you should have remembered the meekness and gentleness of Christ? True fellowship demands that we should have the same care one for another "that there be no schism in the body". When we are least inclined to remember the rights and the interdependence of members, then we should try our hardest. When we are least attracted to members we have the best opportunity for increasing the duties of fellowship. Where our sympathies are least engaged we have the best opportunity of showing that we can be impartial, having the same care one for another.

It is easier for us to conform to the Apostolic command under the second heading we have mentioned. We can suffer with those who suffer, more readily than we can rejoice with those who are honoured. The suffering, however, has to be near and obvious, or we can easily forget and ignore it. We have heard of the millionaire who was so touched with the pitiful story of a caller that he said to a servant, "Send this poor fellow away at once, or I shall have no appetite for dinner." Perhaps there are many even in the Brotherhood who would find it too painful to regard the lives of their fellows very closely. A tragedy in the house of a next-door neighbour will cast a gloom over us when a far greater tragedy in a distant land hardly affects us at all. In the same way we shall be partial in our treatment of brethren near and distant unless we make a great effort to enlarge our sympathies.

When we are called upon to rejoice with the member who is highly honoured, the task is still more difficult, especially for some natures. There are men who could sympathize with a friend's misfortune and even make a generous effort to assist him; but they can never forgive him for being successful. The jealous feeling is well disguised, of course. They fear that the friend's good fortune will turn his head and spoil his character, and we may rest assured that they will find ample confirmation of their worst fears, act how he may. Such people are capable of killing an old friend with pinpricks; shaking their heads all the while, and deploring his supposed weakness.

It is only too true that even brethren are often very unkind to each other without ever owning the fault or recognizing the tortuous self-deception which leads to the cruelty. The evils in the world are reproduced among those who are supposed to have come out from the world. It is easy to forget that there are any obligations in connection with the One Body or that if we sin against any of the members we sin against the Head. The One Body is formed on the basis of the One Faith; the essentials of which remain as in the days of the apostles. They do not change from year to year with the exigencies of human policy. Faith has been corrupted repeatedly both by the neglect of essentials and by the additions of human ideas. We must hold fast to the Word which is the only true light. It does not matter what men may think or say of us; what would the Lord have us do? That is the supreme test and it is well for us to use it now in the day of opportunity and before the day of judgment. If we can really bend our spirits to "learn of him", we find at once that our duties are constructive and that they begin with the nurture and care of the One Body which is being developed on the basis of the One Faith.


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