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Online Articles

A Test of Fellowship

When brethren begin to try to study an issue, the first question should not be, "Are you going to make this a test of fellowship?" There's a time when fellowship may need to be considered, depending on the issue at hand, but it shouldn't be the first order of business. The first order should be to lovingly work together and learn truth. That often takes time, and brethren are typically in different places of growth and understanding. As long as this process can be maintained without being ugly to each other (Eph. 4:32), brethren can generally get along pretty well. Patience, longsuffering, and love are staples of a growing relationship that fosters a better knowledge of truth and understanding (Eph. 4:1-3).

My experience generally has been that fellowship issues tend to work themselves out without being forced. Yet there are questions to consider. Is one being divisive and causing strife? Is one refusing to study while dogmatically holding a view? Is one attempting to go behind the backs of others (e.g., the shepherds) in order to teach a pet idea? These are always dangers that need to be avoided and handled. In these cases, swift action is in order (Rom. 16:17; Titus 1:9).

However, when an issue first arises, and brethren genuinely want to work together in love, the fellowship question is a distant second. Why bring it up first? Why not instead simply seek to study, pray, and grow together? In time, the fellowship between brethren may indeed grow much closer, and this is a wonderful outcome.

Never look for excuses to divide and isolate; always pursue peace and love. Divisions happen, but let it never be because we have failed to do all within our abilities to bring others together first.