In this next section of Francis Schaeffer’s book, The Mark of the Christian, Schaeffer begins to answer the question that he has begging the reader to ask: “So, what does this Christian love look like? How is it exercised by the believer?” [This is the 12th post in working my way through Schaeffer’s book: The Mark of the Christian.]
The answer he warns is a “very simple thing.” This may seem like a simple thing, even a letdown; it truly does have profound implication (p. 22). Indeed, this is the first step to renewed fellowship in any relationship that has been damaged.
He will explain more of this process in the sections, but Schaeffer never wanders too far from his main thesis, again in this section he writes: “if I not willing to say “I’m sorry” when I have wrong somebody else . . . let me say it again, if I am not willing to do this very simple thing, the world has a right to question whether Jesus was sent from God and whether Christianity is true” (p. 22).
Moreover, he reminds us this unwillingness to say we’re sorry not only affects individual relationships, it is also poisonous to Christian groups (and church organizations) as well: “What divides and severs true Christian groups and Christians . . . Invariably it is lack of love — and the bitter things that are said by true Christians in the midst of differences” (pp. 22-23).
If you would like to hear a more recent conversation about this very issue, the link below will take you to a spirited conversation from four Godly, yet quite different, well know Church personalities about this very issue (Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan; Albert Mohler, and CJ Mahaney). More specifically, they talk through how it can actually look, without compromising their distinctiveness, in working together. I encourage you to listen to their wise counsel: Cooperation in the Church
Key statements from this section (p. 21-23):
What, then, does this love mean? How can it be made visible?
First, it means a very simple thing: It means that when I have made a mistake and when I have failed to love my Christian brother, I go to him and say, "I'm sorry." That is first.
It may sound simplistic to start with saying we are sorry and asking forgiveness, but it is not. This is the way of renewed fellowship.
If, when we feel we must disagree as true Christians, we could simply guard our tongues and speak in love, in five or ten years the bitterness could be gone. Instead of that, we leave scars — a curse for generations. Not just a curse in the church, but a curse in the world.
You can read the online edition of the entire book here >>
3 John 8