Astonishingly, in the very shadow of the cross Jesus had to address the apostles about strife over precedence among them. This caused Jesus to say, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.”(Mark 10:42-43) Unfortunately that same spirit of precedence has been and is still very much alive among many leaders in the Churches of Christ.
These leaders see themselves and their interpretations of the scriptures( “matters of faith” or opinions) as the standards of orthodoxy. They exercise their leadership to compulsively force the rank and file to adhere to their dominion. Rather than manifesting benignity and “longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”, they coerce and demand that others assent to their dictates, and if they do not will create a division. These actions are usually done under the guise that they proceed from respect for the authority of the scriptures and love of the brethren.
In “disputable matters” who is guilty of heresy, schisms, and divisions, those that make laws relative to their views and seek to domineer, or those that manifest forbearance and love? John Locke once wrote: “I esteem that tolerance to be the chief
characteristical mark of the true church.” If he be correct those leaders who will sacrifice unity for the sake of their opinions ain’t representative of the true church.
As to love of the brethren I find it strange that some of these leaders will loudly castigate and condemn and treat worse than unbelievers brethren who challenge and question their actions and views. Do they really think we believe such conduct proceeds from love of the brethren? God has given no man or men authority over others as some of them operate, or seek to operate, compelling others to conform to his/their dictates and sovereignty. Faith is being inwardly persuaded and it is brought about by being forbearing in love, not by force.
Jesus had the ability and power to control others and dictate life to suit himself, but he did not exercise such sovereign power. Instead of exercising force he manifested meekness of spirit, teaching kindly and gently to the rank and file, seeking inward persuasion of the mind resulting in faith. He did not want people to profess faith without really believing. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”