I’ve always appreciated (but failed to practice often times) this quote from Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed:
It would be a good contest amongst Christians, one to labour to give no offence, and the other to labour to take none. The best men are severe to themselves, tender over others.
This is not to say that there are never times for seemingly harsh words, for there are. Nevertheless, harsh words do not have to be spoken in a harsh manner. We are not perfect like Christ, thus our hatred is not perfect like His. Beside that, we’re commanded to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. If we are to be kind to our enemies, how much more so to our brethren? The Moral Law ultimately comes down to 2 “greater” commandments:
1. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
2. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Some may object, “But what about the Ten Commandments?” Well, the two aforementioned commandments sum up the Ten Commandments. In order to love our neighbor rightly, we must love God supremely and rightly. So the first 4 Commandments pertain to loving God and approaching him in the way He has commanded. Commandments 5 through 10 teach us how we are to love our neighbor. It’s a bit of a cycle as well, for to love God rightly also depends on us loving our neighbors rightly.
One duty found in the 9th Commandment is upholding the good name of our neighbor. It is my belief that such being the case, when I disagree with a fellow believer, I should be careful not to impute malicious intention or motivation to his heart simply because we believe something differently. For example, I should never think that an anti-paedobaptist is virulently kicking against the goads of Scripture simply because I believe he’s wrong concerning the doctrine of baptism. Neither should he think that I’m simply hanging on to tradition (for the sake of tradition) because I hold to baptism.
It is incumbent upon Christians to not only love their enemies, but to also charitably disagree with their brethren. This can be done without compromising one’s belief in a particular instance. There’s a difference between two Christian brethren sincerely believing and disagreeing on a matter and someone who seeks to undermine the Christian Faith with false belief. We would do well to distinguish between the two scenarios so that our language toward our brethren would be winsome and loving, whilst our language toward the divisive man be firm, yet nonetheless in love.