Also, we must realize that the small phrase “in love” is used six times in the book of Ephesians (1:4; 3:17; 4:2, 15, 16; 5:2). We may pick up the things mentioned in Ephesians, yet neglect this little phrase—in love. In Ephesians five Paul charges the wives to submit themselves to their husbands (v. 22). Paul does not say, however, that the wives submit and that the husbands rule. Paul says that the wives submit and the husbands love (v. 25). A husband should not rule but love. If a husband firstly rules, he will eventually eat the fruit of separation and lastly he will eat the final fruit—divorce. Ruling only brings forth separation and then divorce. The best way for a husband to have the best wife is to love her to the uttermost. The more you love her, the better she becomes. The worst wife can be the best by the husband’s loving.
Submission is on the wife’s side. On the husband’s side there should not be ruling but loving. In like manner, submission is on the believers’ side, but on the elders’ side there should not be ruling but loving. When the elders try to rule, the issue will be “separation and divorce.” If the elders are ruling the saints in their locality, they will eat the fruit of this in the future. The elders must learn how to love. The more they love the better. In the family life, in the church life, and in the neighborhood life to love is best. We must learn this lesson—to love.
Managing and leading gives the elders some kind of authority to say something. They must remember, however, not to say or do anything without love. Let love protect you. Let love balance you. In your leadership, always do something in love. In your management always say and do things in love. This is the best. This will protect the church, this will preserve the saints, and this will preserve you.
NO SPECIAL GROUP
Also, the elders should not let any kind of special group come into existence in the church. First, as a leading one in the local church, you should not practice to attract a small number of saints to be your people, your group. Once you do this, you will open the door for some other groups to arise. We human beings are very prone and apt to do this. Because I am one of the leaders and I need someone to help me, this could become a cloak under which I build up a small group. Actually, that small group becomes not only your helper, but also your “spies” to collect information for you to protect your interests. Many years ago in China, I saw a locality in which five elders had formed two groups. This happens in any kind of society or in any kind of human organization, but this should be altogether put aside in the church life. Do not take any lead to form a group. This will corrupt the church. Whenever such a thing is produced in your church, immediately there are spies on every side. The persons in a certain group are always collecting information. While they are doing this, others who are not in any group would also collect information. As a result, in most of the church meetings, the main job might be to collect information.
We all love the Lord, we all love the church, and we all love the recovery. This is why we are in the recovery, but we human beings have our weakness in our fallen nature. We like to know others’ things and we like to keep all things secret. Also, we like to protect our own interests. As a result, there is a basic element of competition compelling us to get helpers, especially when a brother becomes an elder. Before he became an elder, he was nobody. Then after he became an elder, he considered himself to be somebody. Spontaneously, then, a group is formed and sometimes this group which was formed was due to a very positive need. You may need some helpers in your work, but when you get the help you must try to stay away from forming a close group. Once you do this, you damage yourself. You get the benefit and the help temporarily, but that help contains many corrupting germs.
By the Lord’s mercy I have always had very close helpers, but I do not have any close group. I have stayed in the United States, working and living here for over twenty-two years. None of the brothers, however, can say that they are very close to Brother Lee. Whoever has said this has left the recovery. I do not have any close ones. All the brothers are one with me “at a distance.” The only one you should be close to without distance is your wife. If you are close to anyone without any distance besides your wife, this is corruption. God has ordained that only a couple, husband and wife, should be absolutely one, even one flesh without any distance. With a man and a wife there is not only no distance but also no separation. A man and wife are one flesh. However, we should not be one with anyone, other than our wife, without some distance.
Keeping a distance in this way preserves you and keeps the Lord’s work from being corrupted. This also keeps the church from being ruined and keeps your helpers very healthy in the Spirit. We all have to pray, “Lord, have mercy upon us that in the local church where we are there would not be a spy.” I am not referring to opposers, but to so-called parties in the local church as spies. I must regretfully say that in some localities some spying goes on even at the Lord’s table. This has to be killed. Whenever someone comes to you to talk in this way you should not talk and you should stop his talk. This is why gossiping in the church life always brings the death element everywhere and to everyone.
We must also realize that the sisters, with their female nature, are very subjective and cannot be objective as easily as the brothers can. We must also realize that subjectivity always opens the door for corruption to come in. The brothers do not fall into friendships so easily, but the sisters do. Unintentionally, some of the sisters may spontaneously form a group. If you would tell some of the sisters not to form this kind of group around themselves they would say, “Praise the Lord. I don’t have one.” Actually they have one unintentionally. Immediately after this kind of speaking, one sister may go to another and tell her, “The brothers indicated that we sisters easily form groups among ourselves. I don’t have one, do you?” The sister might respond that they do not have a group. Actually, however, these two sisters are one group already. Immediately after the brothers’ speaking, this sister would always go to certain other sisters and never to some other ones. Eventually, these two sisters and the other ones in their group begin to tell one another how terrible it is that the brothers are always belittling the sisters. They may even have a “telephone conference” which is eventually filled with negative talk and gossip. This is a corruption and a ruin. By the Lord’s mercy always try to avoid this and to kill it. This does not mean that you have to “declare war” on the sisters involved in this. As elders who take the lead to shepherd the church, to feed the flock, we should always minister life. If we hold such an attitude of exercising our spirit to minister life to the flock, life itself will kill the germs.
(Elders' Training, Book 04: Other Crucial Matters Concerning the Practice of the Lord's Recovery, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)