by Wayne Schatzle
I have been active in promoting the Christian Faith and Bible reading for many years now. I have also relied on prayer for guidance. Recently, as I was bothered by the lack of new people in our local churches, I prayed to God because He is the One that sends people. This time I prayed a little differently, instead of asking for direction in evangelistic efforts, I asked, “What is wrong with us?” Remarkably, this verse popped into my mind: “if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you—leave your gift there… first be reconciled to your brother and then offer the gift” (Matt 5:24). Immediately I understood what message the Lord had for me.
I wondered if I was overreacting or reading more into that verse than should be until I checked a trusted commentary: “This is as much to say, “Do not attempt to bring any offering to God while you are in a spirit of enmity against any person; or have any difference with your neighbor, which you have not used your diligence to get adjusted.” It is our duty and interest, both to bring our gift and offer it too; but God will not accept any act of religious worship from us while any enmity subsists in our hearts toward any soul of man, or while any subsists in our neighbor’s heart towards us which we have not used the proper means to remove.” (Adam Clark, p. 775). Very strong words indeed, and I feel compelled to agree with them.
Our tradition of Faith is a web of ugly divisions in the body of Christ and those splits are still festering with hard feelings. In spite of the smiling faces on the brethren, resentments continue. No one admits to harboring ill will towards former brethren, yet their actions belie the lip service. This is the time to do some soul searching and ask God if there is less than a pure heart within you. Actually the verse I cited shows that even though you may harbor no ill will, but your brother does—it is up to you to remedy the situation. But why me you ask? Just this, “you who are Spiritual—restore such a one” (Gal 6:1–2). If you are the one that remembered it—you are the spiritual one and the task has fallen on you!
We may sear our conscience to put ex-brethren out of our minds—but make no mistake, God remembers, and He hates divisions. We identify ourselves by the church we attend or better yet, the man we follow. God desires that we be likeminded, no divisions, and have the same mind and judgment. When there are divisions, we must be treated as carnal because we are behaving like ordinary men and not God’s elect (1Cor 1, 3).
Looking at this problem from God’s point of view, should He send more people into a situation where people who believe the same cannot get along? Why would we think we could get along with strangers more than former brethren? Think about this: “if one says ‘I love God’, and hates his brother—he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also (1Jn 4: 20–21). It is not an option for us to ignore others in the Spiritual Body of Christ.
But many will say that it seems hopeless to mend the hurt feelings of the past—and they are correct. “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city and contentions are like the bars of a castle” (Prov 18:19). Just possibly your efforts will fail and the offended party will not hear you. You have done your job and God knows your heart. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9). That is a worthy prize for your effort!
If this message has touched your heart and brought to mind a problem in your congregation, I urge you to act and discuss these thoughts with your church. Instead of planning campaigns and advertising ploys, why not be proactive in restoring the church in your area? Plan a “Family Reunion” at a neutral site, and put away the denominational banter for one week. Invite all those who were once considered Family and enjoy singing hymns, scriptures, and a nice meal together. Set your goal to do this, not to create another organization because there is room for many efforts to proclaim the Gospel, but to show God we do have the capacity to be loving and forgiving. Who knows? You may even have a great time in the process.
The author, Wayne Schatzle, is the director of Freedom Biblical Information Center, publishing a catalog of many sources of Sabbatarian literature. It is available from Servants News (order code FBIC) or you may write directly to: PO Box 1806; West Chester OH 45071; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It seems that the number of cross-group Sabbatarian activities has decreased during the past several yearsboth regional activities and those in local areas. If it is because brethren are harboring bad feelings about each other, then they indeed need to go to them and try to make peace. Even if the others dont want peace, it is so important that we extend our hand so both we and they know that we are willing. In some cases, believers may not be getting together simply because they have grown weary of organizing combined eventsor because they think very few might come. But it would be better to actually do it: organize one last event and either prove that others will not come, or be pleasantly surprised.
Also, realize that brethren who used to be friends in the same congregation, but who have seen little of each other over the last five years, may simply not be close enough to be friends anymore. They have different jobs, their children do not play together anymore, and they no longer share a congregation in common. If independent Sabbatarian groups intend to continue, they must learn to expand the number of groups with which they are willing to work, and they must learn to reach out and teach others to build the size of their own group. NSE