I was just reading in Proverbs and found this statement:
“Take away the dross from silver, and it will go to the silversmith for jewelry.” — Prov. 25:4
This ancient proverb made me think of the unity-separation conundrum. In the past, fundamentalists had a strong voice for separation as can be seen in history and articles written and positions taken. In recent times, they have become less vocal about separation. In particular, separation from worldliness and from disobedient brothers have been relegated to debatable topics. The end result is that few speak about these topics anymore. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes, and nothing is said.
The proverb reminds me of our need to be pure for the Lord. Just as dross must be removed from silver to make it usable as jewelry, so we must obey God by removing sin from our lives to be usable for the Lord. Sin is not just separation from personal sin. That is important. But it also includes the refusal to separate from unbelief, worldliness, disobedient brothers, etc. To be usable for the Lord, we have to separate from those who continue in sin.
Note also what happens to the purified silver. All of it can be used by the jeweler. All of it. The simple qualification is that the dross must be removed. The same is true for us. The people who are purifying themselves for the Lord are the ones with whom God can work. These are the people we should be unified with. When we are walking in the same direction, we have fellowship and can be unified in spiritual endeavors. The ones who are not pure (worldly, disobedient, etc.) separate themselves as unclean. Because they are not purifying themselves, they show a lack of love for the Lord. Until that changes, we cannot be unified. We separate because unity with sin displeases the Lord. God’s reputation is affected by the company we keep.
If I were to give my wife some silver jewelry that was not pure, she would not be very happy. If such jewelry were for sale, nobody would buy it. The same is true in our relationship to the Lord. If we want to be usable for the Lord, we must be willing to practice this kind of separation. As we do, we will notice others who are walking the same way. With these we can be unified.