Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16–17, NIV 1984).
My Musings – What is it that divides a church? Unfortunately, too many things. Nothing messes up a community of believers like people. Yet, we are exhorted to not forsake the gathering together. So we can “teach and admonish one another.” The teaching part we get. But admonish? Not so much. How dare they “warn or reprimand me firmly!” But when we stray from the teaching, we need to be admonished. By people who love us and mean us well. On occasion, those doing the admonishing become too zealous and “forget” the part about doing “it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
What divides a church? For one thing, sound doctrine, which absolutely needs to be jealously guarded. Brothers and sisters who fall into sin? Certainly. But I would suggest first attempting to “restore gently” before moving from teaching to admonishing. And while we’re at it, we must remember that “first stone” is heavy for a reason. And our aim can be a little off if we do not first remove the “plank” from our eyes.
Then, of course, there are the “disputable” matters. Matters where all too often we believe we are the one who is stronger in the faith, but then we feel compelled to criticize, complain and “correct,” while possibly demonstrating that we quite possibly could be the one who is weaker in the faith.
Some disputable matters can be quite serious to some, and we must guard against causing them to stumble. But some can be petty and trivial. I could give you a list, but mine might be different than yours. So, I’ll mention just one. One that is listed in the above text, and is supposed to bring us together “with gratitude in [our] hearts to God.” Yep. You guessed it. “As you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” In my mind, I can hear a good friend, mentor and former associate pastor good naturedly calling me out, “now you’re meddling.”
My Advice – Now, I suppose in days gone by, when psalms gave way to hymns it caused quite a controversy. And today, in many congregations, as hymns give way to spiritual songs, history is repeating itself. To me, whether it’s a psalm, hymn or spiritual song, as long as it is “to God” it makes no matter. Certainly not one to divide. After all, it’s not about me (or you). Not about my preferences (or yours). Whatever gives praise and glory to God. To paraphrase another text, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything [psalm, hymn or spiritual song] is excellent or praiseworthy—[sing] such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV 1984).