Today, writing from prison, I think Paul might be emphatic. He might scribble ( ‘see, I write these words in my own hand’ ): “Stop fighting!” before he explains why Christians should not bicker. Paul does write gently here; and a bit later in his letter to the church at Ephesus, he begs his fellow believers to “speak the truth in love.” But, here he implores them (“I urge you”) to “accept one another in love.”
4 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love,3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.
Paul calls Christians to humility, gentleness, patience, acceptance ( tolerance! ) all of which lead to unity and “the peace that binds us.”
So how do Christians who disagree stop fighting? What is “speaking the truth in love?”
Examples (from a written social network debate) of “truth speaking”:
Person #1: “Heretic warning” then boldly typed N-A-M-E of heretic. Then, “BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.”
Person #2: “Beware that the good presentation you give is not clouded by pride.”
Which spoken truth do you think Paul prefers? And, more importantly, which statement sounds more like God, the Holy Spirit?
“Finally, brothers,” writes Paul to the church at Corinth, “rejoice. Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” “Give no opportunity for stumbling to anyone.” (2 Corinthians 6:3) “Speak openly; [your] heart opened wide.” (2 Corinthians 6:11 ) Remember that “[you] are the sanctuary of the living God;” (2 Corinthians 6:16) and, as such, “complete [your] sanctification in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) “Wrong no one, corrupt no one, defraud no one.” (2 Corinthians 7:2) “Excel in everything — faith, speech, knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love — excel also in this grace.” (2 Corinthians 8:7)
As you remember that the living God dwells within you, you walk in awe and joy simultaneously. In this grace is your maturity, your ability to be at peace and to be encouraged. God is love and peace; and He is with you.
“Finally, brothers, rejoice” in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
Paul says, “Therefore accept one another;” and tells us the rationale for doing this, adding: “just as the Messiah accepts you, to the glory of God.”
God gives you both “endurance and encouragement” so that He “allows you to live in harmony with one another.” (Romans 15: 4) He gives you these gifts in order that you are able to “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15: 6) And what imputes glory to God? Lo and behold, what brings glory to God is “a united mind and voice.”
Notice it is God who “allows” us to live in harmony; He provides “endurance and encouragement” so that we are able to be “united” in both “mind and voice.” Much of this endurance and encouragement are given to us through “whatever was written in the past…for our instruction.” Of course, the main source of this endurance and encouragement is directly from God, the Holy Spirit who is dwelling within us, working His will through us.
Paul’s “therefore” relates back to his argument that unity among Christians brings glory to God the Father. This is Paul’s rationale for having “a united mind and voice.” As we show the world our unity, God is glorified. Unfortunately, Christians are fragmented into so many denominations with some so adamant that their way is the only way, unbelievers are wary and sometimes downright terrified of all Christians.
Therefore, Paul begs us to live in harmony with one another so that we may glorify God, especially among unbelievers.
God gives endurance. He builds hope through endurance. He gives encouragement and instruction through His Word. God allows us to live in unity and harmony with one another “with a united mind and voice” glorifying Him.
God fills us with joy and peace. He makes our hope overflow.
God gives us grace. He shows us His mercy.
God accepts us.
“Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way.” (Romans 14: 13)
“Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepts you, to the glory of God.” (Romans 15: 7)
“But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14: 10 – 12)
Rather than criticize, you ought to live in harmony. If you have a conviction, says Paul, you should “keep it to yourself before God.” (Romans 14: 22) Paul encourages the pursuit of “what promotes peace and what builds up one another.” (Romans 14: 19)
Therefore, accept your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Do not criticize. Instead, join together with them to praise our God, who gives us endurance, encouragement, hope, peace, and joy.