I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and humility, with patience, bearing with one another in love; being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit.” (Eph 4:1-4 WEB (R))
“…that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love. (Eph 4:14-16 WEB (R))
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. But if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, the same is known by him. (1Co 8:1-3 WEB (R))
To truly follow Christ, one must remain humble and teachable – not simply willing to change one’s understanding and perception, but EAGER to do so. Sentimentality has no place in a spiritual walk; change is often just another word for growth. So, I am certainly not against seeking to gain correct “knowledge” or “information” about God’s ways or character, but I want to highlight that while knowledge has its place, it MUST be secondary and subject to love, or it becomes poisonous instead of nourishing. I think you could say this: love without knowledge is immature, but knowledge without love is hurtful.
In Ephesians 4:16, Paul says that a mature and healthy body will be “building itself up in love.” Love is vital to growth within the body of Christ, and since we are one body, we are actually OBLIGATED to love one-another, as Paul also writes in Romans 13:8. However, because many leaders and ministers have preferred knowledge over love, and because so many believers have allowed themselves to be divided over who is right and wrong in their understanding, the body of Christ has been divided and its growth has been stunted.
This can be a bit confusing, because scripture says knowledge “puffs up” (makes one proud), and that one day knowledge will pass away, but it also says in many places that knowledge is very good and valuable. I believe one simple reason for this is that there are two sorts of knowledge: knowledge of the mind (information/reason), and knowledge of the spirit (revelation/light). These are quite different, and it is the knowledge of the mind, aka information or reason, which tends to make men proud and which will one day pass away. This may be a startling statement, but it’s true: we should never cut ties with a brother just because they don’t have the knowledge or understanding we do. If we do, we’re preferring knowledge over love and stunting growth within our own body!
It’s easy to say all this, but I’ll be the first to admit practicing this requires discernment and a lot of patience. In Ephesians 4:2, Paul says we should be “bearing with one another in love.” The word “bearing” is also translated as “suffer” and “endure.” It’s often hard and taxing to accept others where they are, when you can see their faults but they stubbornly won’t or can’t. But love compels us to do so, and we want others to do the same for us. Bearing with one-another may be the only hope we have of maturing.
Here’s my disclaimer: this doesn’t mean we shirk from speaking the truth, even at times if we know it will offend others, nor does it mean we have to accept anything and everything someone does or says. Truth AND love are essential. Jesus offended religious people all the time, but it wasn’t his intention or goal. He simply saw how the ways of the religious were damaging and leading astray those who were truly seeking God’s way, and spoke undiluted truth in love for his Father and his Father’s people.
Paul also knew the importance of knowledge, praying that the love of his fellow believers would grow and abound in greater knowledge and discernment, so that they wouldn’t tolerate and devote themselves to various things which seem good but are devoid of actual, spiritual life.1 What all this does mean is that we must value love and unity more highly than knowledge. It means we let love “overwhelm” our insistence that others see or conform to our way. It means we live at peace with everyone to the fullest extent we can while abiding in Christ. If someone seems incredibly immature and stuck in their ways – don’t divide from them or attack them, but bear with them in love (you may have been that way yourself once). If someone contradicts or seems to disrespect your ways – don’t divide from them or attack them, but bear with them in love. Again, this requires discernment and a connection with God, as there are millions of challenging scenarios when you’re talking about relationships between people. Ultimately, be led of the spirit.
If we can follow the law of love and accept one-another in peace, we keep the body of Christ connected and thus love can flow and growth WILL take place. Like Paul said, we should be EAGER to keep the unity of the spirit. Don’t all want truth, when all is said and done? Honestly, some don’t, but we can rest assured that God will ultimately have His way. In the meantime, choose the way of love – to bear with your brothers and sisters.
God bless you…