A little while ago at the elders school there was a part on unity. Unity is very big right now. The instructor asked what would be the effect on a congregation where one elder with a strong personality dominated the body. The expected answer was that it would damage the unity of the congregation. No one seemed to notice the fallacy in that response. Is it not true that one strong personality can and often does cause all others to toe the line. In such a scenario, unity does result. No one would argue that the Germans weren’t united under Hitler. But that is not the type of unity we should be striving for. It certainly isn’t the type of unity the Scriptures are referring to at 1 Cor. 1:10.
We stress unity when we should be stressing love. Love produces unity. In fact, there can be no disunity where there is love. However, unity can exist where there is no love.
Christian unity of thought depends on a particular kind of love: Love of truth. We don’t simply believe the truth. We love it! It is everything to us. What other religion’s members identity themselves as “being in the truth”?
Unfortunately, we view unity as so important that even if we are teaching something that is wrong, we must accept it so that we can be united. If someone points out the error of a teaching, instead of being treated with respect, such ones are viewed as giving succor to the apostates; of promoting disunity.
Are we being overly dramatic?
Consider this: Why is it that Russell and his contemporaries were praised for their pursuit of truth through diligent personal and group Bible study, but today private group study, or an examination of the scriptures outside of the framework of our publications is made out to be a virtual apostasy? As testing Jehovah in our hearts?
It is only when we try too hard to become the caretakers of an absolute “truth”; it is only when we claim that God has revealed every last nook and cranny of His Word to us; it is only when we claim that a small group of men are God’s exclusive channel of truth to mankind; only then is true unity placed in jeopardy. The choices become a forced acceptance of scriptural misinterpretation for the sake of unity, or a desire for truth that requires rejection of the misapplication thus leading to a measure of disunity.
If we were to accept the broader framework of truth and define what is truly important, but at the same time exercise a level of humility over those issues that cannot be fully known at this time, then love of God and of neighbor ought to become the limiters that we need to prevent fragmentation in the congregation. Instead we try to prevent such fragmentation by a strict enforcement of doctrinal acceptance. And of course, if you simply have a rule that only those that believe unconditionally in your claim to absolute truth can remain in your organization, then you will achieve your aim to have unity of thought. But at what cost?
This post is a collaboration between
Meleti Vivlon and ApollosOfAlexandria