DIFFERENCES ACCORDING TO GROWTH
In a family there are the grandparents, the parents, and children of various ages. According to Ephesians 2:19, we are God’s family. In God’s family, as in a human family, we are at different stages according to our growth. Therefore, there must be differences among us; yet we are all in the same family. The little ones may cry or fight over their toys. This fighting, however, is normal and even somewhat necessary. But as the children grow, they should no longer fight over toys. All the ages are included in the family. The older ones cannot exclude the young people, and the young people cannot exclude the very little ones. If we exclude any, we break the oneness. In such a case, the oneness of the family is damaged.
In Ephesians 4 we can see this matter of differences. Do not be concerned whether these differences are right or wrong; they are normal. Although my wife and I are no longer young, we do not exclude any of our naughty grandchildren. If they never visited our home, we would miss them very much. This is the family life. All the churches in the Lord’s recovery need to be like this.
The problem with today’s Christians is that instead of a family, they have a class as in school. In an elementary school, children are grouped according to age. Nearly every Christian group is a class. But in the church we are not a class; we are a family.
The genuine oneness, the oneness of the Spirit, must come first. In order to keep the oneness of the Spirit, we must have the growth in life. Today we are all in the process of growing in life. As we continue in this process, there will be differences among us. If we do not have the growth in life, we cannot keep the proper oneness, for the oneness of the Spirit is maintained by the growth in life.
It is in the growth in life that we have genuine lowliness (Eph. 4:2). Lowliness is not a human virtue. When I was young, the pastor advised us to be lowly. But the more he admonished us to be lowly, the higher we desired to be. Lowliness comes from the growth in life. If we would keep the oneness of the Spirit, we must have lowliness. Never think highly of yourself. The first requirement, the first prerequisite, of maintaining the genuine oneness is lowliness. Instead of considering ourselves so highly, we need to say, “Lord, I would like to be lowly. I don’t want to be high.”
The second requirement is meekness. Meekness means not to resist. If we do not resist whatever happens to us, then we have meekness.
Along with lowliness and meekness, we need long-suffering. No place exhausts our endurance more than the church. The church exhausts everyone’s endurance. If you think that you are able to endure, the Lord will bring to you those who can exhaust you. We all need to be exhausted. The Lord’s intention is to exhaust us. The elders may expect the brothers to be nice and lovable and the sisters to be quiet and agreeable. But the more you expect the brothers and sisters to be like this, the more naughty they will be. The elders must be prepared to face the difficulties caused by naughty brothers and sisters. They will exhaust you to the uttermost and then, after exhausting you, will complain that you have no patience or sympathy. Thus, we need long-suffering.
In addition to long-suffering, we must bear one another in love. Instead of vindicating ourselves or justifying ourselves, we need to bear everyone. We should not only bear a few according to our preference, but all the saints. We need to bear them in our spirit to the throne of grace and pray for them. This is easy to talk about, but difficult to practice. For this we need the Lord’s mercy. Apart from His mercy, we cannot bear anyone. Those who have been elders for five years will agree with this, for they have suffered a great deal in the eldership, having been cut into pieces by the brothers and sisters. But this is our destiny, our life, our way. If an elder tries to drop the eldership, he will be through with the church life.
As we go on to the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, there will be differences among us according to the various stages of life. These differences are unavoidable, and we should not try to eliminate or reduce them. Rather, we need to allow the brothers and sisters to be what they are. This is the way to keep the oneness through lowliness, meekness, long-suffering, and bearing one another in love. There is no other way.
(Life Messages, Vol. 1 (#1-41), Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)