This is a hot topic in the business world where companies spend millions developing or buying a brand.  Brand loyalty waxes and wains like the moon, but there still is a significant number of people who trust brands such that their loyalty generates sales.  Even the most skeptical people can name a product brand in which they have great respect and confidence.  The most thrifty and cheap shoppers may not purchase the branded product, but there are names they wish they could or occasionally do buy.  It is this intangible customer loyalty and esteem that gives the brand value.  Tylenol is an example of a brand that lost its reputation in an isolated poisoning event, but the company instituted security measures and the brand thrives today.

They are not called brands, but church denomination names act in a similar fashion to garner credibility, loyalty, and trust by those who seek assurance regarding their faith.  What exactly are the matters of distinction, are they traditions, emphasis or scriptural?  I think we can put too much importance on “being right” about matters that are not that important.  We will not be judged by theological positions, but rather, by what we have done and how we treated the “least of these”.  We can take great pride in deciding who’s right and wrong.  The woman caught in adultery was wrong, but this was not a debate about the evils of sexual infidelity.  Yeshua demonstrated that our own sins should move us to mercy, compassion, and restorative love, rather than judgment, which we have not been authorized to render.  When someone enters the public forum asserting the virtues of adultery, we can respond with truth in love, but even then, only as the Spirit leads.  As leaders in the church, we have a duty to uphold the foundation of God’s Word among the congregation and in our family.  We never deny the truth of scripture, but we handle it rightly.

Are the splits and divisions among God’s people the will of God?  Have we taken our stand on fine points of theology and diverted from the straight and narrow path of love, trust and submission to God’s work among His people?  Scripture clearly prohibits judgment and pride in matters of faith, conscience, celebrations, practices, food and many matters that are individual matters of faith.  Moreover, we are not to judge the lost as they are not in the church. (1 Cor. 5: 9-13).

” ‘Master,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’  ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you.’ (Luke 9: 49-50).  Are we requiring that everyone should be just like us?  “But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler.  Do not even eat with such people.” (1 Corinthians 5: 11).  Note that incomplete or incorrect theology is not listed here as a cause for disassociation.  “Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter.  Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed.  Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.” ( 2 Thessalonians 3: 14-15).  Those whom Paul’s warning was about were disruptive, idle, busybodies who refused to work and provide for themselves.  Have we made enemies of those in other denominations, irrespective of what they actually believe and do?

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.  Keep away from them.  For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.  By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” (Romans 16: 17-18).  Here we see the motive of those who bring division.  “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.  My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.  What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’  Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1: 10-13).  Notice that they were seeking to place a brand on their positions of discipleship.  Have we in the Body of Messiah obeyed and kept the unity of faith?  Can we allow differences without breaking fellowship and bringing disunity?

The Pharisees exemplify this concept of exalting doctrine, theological position, and traditions over love, mercy, unity, and even God Himself.  This practice together with its prideful motive blinded and corrupted what should have been the fulfillment of their highest hope – the coming of Israel’s Messiah.  “One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels.  Some of the Pharisees asked, ‘Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’  Jesus answered them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat.  And he also gave some to his companions.’  Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’ ” (Luke 6: 1-5).  This passage indicates that we should place our focus on the Lord, rather than condemning His followers.

We should never let our determinations of right and wrong take precedence over love of people who are sinful, nor God who is perfect.  The authority to judge is given to Lord Yeshua alone.  Let’s pray that walls of division and snares of pride will be exposed and pulled down in the body of Messiah, that the unity and fellowship of all believers in Yeshua and the Holy Spirit will be restored in our day.

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