Introduction - Boy, are we all different! The world is colored by a vast array of personalities, opinions, and interests. Aren't we glad we are not all the same--dull...
If you grew up with siblings, somebody at some point heard a variation of these words: "You're not really in our family. Mom and Dad found you and they're gonna take you back pretty soon." Depending upon the age of the victim, this news resulted in a tearful race to Mom or a fist fight.
Unfortunately, the family of God hurls similar accusations at each other. The availability of the Internet seems to provoke an insatiable desire to take these family fights embarrassingly public. It doesn't matter whose name you Google. From world-renowned Bible scholar to up-and-coming preacher, everyone is under attack by someone. The word "heretic" is tossed as liberally as confetti on New Year's Eve, often by a young seminary student with a short-sleeved dress shirt and a big Adam's Apple, holding court in a musty church basement with a camcorder. However, bigger names are now joining the mudslinging, as though any one person holds the patent on every truth. Doesn't the Bible call that pride? No matter how minuscule the doctrinal difference, disagreements are seen as grounds for name-calling and the childish taunt: "You're not in our family!"
Heretics and false teachers do exist. In abundance. They should be called out because they are preaching "another gospel." Any teachings that directly contradict scripture, such as universalism or questioning the divinity of Jesus, should be rejected because they are touted by those who are merely neighbors and not brothers. But much of the inner-family conflict is just that--inner family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, headed to the same eternal home. We are going to disagree. All families do. It's healthy. It means everyone has a voice and everyone is thinking about what matters.
Big Brother Jesus knew this was coming. It is rather telling that the theme of His longest recorder prayer in John 17 was unity. Of all the requests He could have made of His Father in those hours before the crucifixion, He asked "that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me..." (v. 23) Isn't it interesting that the way the world will believe in Jesus is when it sees our unity?
Is being "right "on some non-essential issue more important than loving our brothers? Is proving our point before a scoffing world more important than demonstrating the humility and kindness that should characterize the family of God? Jesus didn't think so. If unity among His family is that important to Jesus, why is it not more important to us?