The following six principles were given by John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota, as a challenge and encouragement to his fellow pastors and their wives about keeping unity in the midst of our differences. As I was reading the principles, I was amazed at the wisdom that saturates them. Therefore, I am posting them here with hopes that they will take root in our lives.
1. Let’s avoid gossiping.
The New Testament warns against gossiping. The Greek word translated “gossip” means whisper or whisperer. In other words, the focus is not on the falsehood of the word but on the fact that it needs to be surreptitious. It is not open and candid and forthright. It has darkness about it. It does not operate in the light of love. It is not aiming at healing. It strokes the ego’s desire to be seen as right without playing by the rules of love.
For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find…that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. (2 Corinthians 12:20)
2. Let’s identify evidences of grace in each other and speak them to each other and about each other.
The church in Corinth was deeply flawed. But Paul found reason to thank God for them because of “the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4). The most flawed pastor on this staff—and we are all flawed—is a work of grace. It honors Christ, and keeps criticism in perspective, to see it and say it often.
3. Let’s speak criticism directly to each other if we feel the need to speak to others about it.
The point is not that we will always agree on everything, especially the practical application of shared principles. Paul’s word in Romans 12:18 is, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” It may not be possible, but we should try.
4. Let’s look for, and assume, the best motive in the other’s viewpoint, especially when we disagree.
When Paul deals with disagreement in Romans 14, one of the things he appeals to is that those with opposite practical convictions have identical heart-motives. “The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God” (Romans 14:6). Christ-honoring passions, Paul says, can unite us in spite of differences of application.
5. Think often of the magnificent things we hold in common.
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” (Psalm 40:16)
To mention a few things we hold in common: the Elder Affirmation of Faith, the sovereignty of God, the supremacy of his glory in all things, the majesty and meekness of Christ, the all-sufficiency of his saving work, the precious and very great promises summed up in Romans 8:28 and 8:32, the value and sweetness of the Bible, the power and patience of the Holy Spirit in transforming us, the hope of glory, a profound biblical vision of manhood and womanhood, a common global mission to see the nations know Christ…
6. Let’s be more amazed that we are forgiven than that we are right. And in that way, let’s shape our relationships by the gospel.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you…. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)
“The one who is forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47). In other words, think more of your own sins and how amazing it is that God saved you than you do about the other person’s flaws.