Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 1956 by Dr. Charles H. Stevens, a member of the ABWE advisory council, and is being republished as part of the Voices of the Past series. It first appeared in Message Volume 22 No. 5, January 1956, pages 4, 7.
Original style conventions have been retained, as well as some outdated terminology out of respect to the original work.
Basic in life’s needs is the ability to cooperate.
The advancement recorded in human endeavor and progress in the mechanical and scientific world has been in direct proportion to man’s ability and willingness to work with others. Little in accomplishment is possible apart from the spirit of teamwork. In the factory, in the store, in the office and in the shop, men and women must learn to subject themselves to discipline in order to do the whole job efficiently. The world has long since learned the importance of this uniformity begotten by the strong desire to move ahead.
We recognize that a virtue may well become a vice when taken to excess. The determination to be agreeable at all cost may issue from moral cowardice and result in appeasement of error or the compromise of truth. When cooperation is effected apart from conviction, intelligence and inward agreement, the movement becomes a machine subject to the direction and control of a top few. This can be a positive evil.
While admitting the dangers of excess, every Christian should seek to curb the natural instinct of individualism and learn to cooperate with other Christians in doing the Lord’s work. Upon close study, some of our “lone-wolf” tactics grow out of frustration or a “torpid liver.” It has been often observed that some people are never as “happy” as when they are “enjoying ill-health.” Some people are never quite themselves until they find something over which to be disagreeable. The writer was in a small grocery store recently and saw displayed in a prominent place on the wall this motto: “Why be disagreeable when with a little effort you can be a real stinker.”
Perhaps there is no lesson that Christians need to learn more than the lesson of how to get along with others, how to work together. A happy home is dependent upon this spirit of understanding and a willingness to treat with courtesy and consideration the members of the household. This art is often lacking in our churches where carnality rules and divisions grow. This was the serious state of the church in Corinth when Paul wrote his first letter. “Babes in Christ . . . milk . . . fed . . . carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions. . . . For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal.” Among the highest Christian virtues is the ability to live and work congenially with others.
The psalmist wrote, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments” (Psa. 133:1-2).
We are living in a new age. Never in the history of the world have men been thrown into such close congestion. Our technological age has made necessary many adjustments in living. To succeed, men have been forced to learn the art of “getting along.” The speed-up schedule and modern living is something new and calls for a new adaptation. The economic world, for the sake of profits, has gone a long way towards factoring the problems. The assembly line has taught us much. Nations are working at the job with little evidence of success. As long as Satan is the God of this world, confusion and division will be the order of the day. There can be no real peace apart from a new directing Head, the Prince of Peace. All else is patchwork.
There is one place where we might reasonably expect congeniality, unity and understanding, i.e., among Bible-believing Christians, but even here we are often disappointed. Satan turns all his batteries in this direction, seeking, even where general agreement obtains, to divide over minor matters, and to promote the spirit of suspicion and censoriousness. Since none of us is exempt, it behooves all to be cognizant of the danger and to heed the exhortation of the Great Apostle, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).