A second great truth for which we should stand is that all true believers are members of the body of Christ and therefore members of one another (I Cor. 12:12-26). This being so, it is necessary for us to recognize all Christians as our brothers and sisters.
It is not always easy to do this. Men have erected fences. People are more loyal to their own denomination than they are to the body of Christ. They do not recognize the unity of the Spirit.
But the trouble is not all with other people. Even in our own hearts, there is often the desire to be distinctive, to think of ourselves as having a cover on church truth or some other truth. We often find it difficult to befriend those who do not see exactly as we do. Instead of rejoicing when others are led into a certain measure of divine truth, we are apt to magnify the ways in which they are still different from us. And too frequently we quarrel most bitterly with those whose church order is strikingly similar to our own.
How then can we give practical expression to the truth that all genuine believers are members of the body of Christ?
First of all, we should love them because they belong to Christ (I John 4:11). The fact that they may differ with us in various areas of doctrine or practice should not prevent our loving them.
We should pray for them (I Sam. 12:23). This is a debt we owe to all men, especially those who are of the household of faith.
Third, we should seek to share with them the precious truths which God has shown us from the Word (II Tim. 2:2).
This does not mean that we should adopt a deliberate policy of sheep-stealing, that is, moving into other evangelical groups with the specific purpose of leading people out to "our own fellowship." Nowhere in the Bible are we called to this divisive ministry. Rather, in our individual contact with others and as led by the Holy Spirit, we should minister Christ to them as the gathering Center of His people. We should ""teach everyone we can, all that we know about Him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ" (Col. 1:28, Phillips).
Not only should we love other believers, and pray for them, and seek to edify them, but we should also learn from them (I Cor. 12:21). It is a mistake to think that we have all the truth and that we cannot benefit spiritually from those outside "our own fellowship." Every member has something to contribute to the rest of the body. Any man-made barriers that hinder believers from helping other believers are contrary to the will of God.
Also we should refrain from criticism, jealousy, gossiping, backbiting or judging (Luke 6:37). Each believer is a steward of the Lord. We are distinctly forbidden to judge others before the time, that is, before the Lord comes (I Cor. 4:5). Paul asks, 'Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? To his own Master he standeth or falleth" (Rom. 14:4). And when Peter became concerned about John's service for the Lord, Jesus said, "What is that to thee? Follow thou me" (John 21:22).
We should rejoice whenever Christ is preached, whether or not we agree with the methods and motives. Paul wrote to the Philippians: "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will; the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds; but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice' (Phil. 1: 15-18).
The fact that we thus recognize all true believers as members of the body does NOT mean that we will adopt their policies and practices. We are responsible to obey the Word of God as He has revealed it to us. We can love people without loving the system in which they are found and without becoming a part of it. As far as our own pathway is concerned, we must be uncompromisingly obedient to the Bible. As far as other believers are concerned, we should be patient and tolerant.