As a father, I find it important when disciplining my children, to consider the child and the situation. I ask myself, "At this point, with this child, does he/she need to learn about grace or justice more?" Sometimes, I will show justice if they have been taking advantage of their freedom, and sometimes, in the same situation, I will show mercy if they are repentant and are overburdened by the struggles in their life.
It is the same with the church. Yes, on the one hand, we need to focus on unity. The Bible is clear that it is vital for the Bride of Christ to be unified, but unity cannot come at the expense of truth. While I do know of churches where disputes over every secondary and tertiary doctrine cause constant rifts in the unity and a good dose of teaching on love, and mercy, and grace are called for, I believe a more pressing issue in the church today, as a whole, is discernment.
While, we don't want our churches to be war zones, we don't want them to be gun-free zones either. In a place where no one can stand up for truth in doctrines of vital importance, it is then, the wolves will pounce. There is a difference between splitting hairs over worship style and whether or not the Pastor wore a tie on Sunday, and whether the church will preach the word, exercise church discipline, stand for life, be defenders of marriage, etc.
We need to be churches that boldly stand for the historic doctrines taught in the scriptures, we need to protect our sheep from the wolves (and train them to protect themselves as well), and we need to do all of this while loving one another. Fighting sin and loving our neighbor are not mutually exclusive commands.
Bill Itzel has been a worship leader and singer/songwriter for 26 years based in Westminster, MD. This is a blog about congregational worship and the latest news in the The Itzel's ministry.