Lesson in Despising Our Brethren
Have you ever focused on the shortcomings of another Christian, whether their sinful struggles, ideas about doctrine, or other issues of the faith? The Lord knows I have.
Have you begun to think harsh thoughts about them? Have you begun to judge them as untrue Christians? Have you begun to think of yourself as somehow better than they are? More of a Christian than they are? It can be hard to be honest about ourselves with these things. It usually is difficult to look at ourselves honestly, yet, we all have something to work on. It’s much easier to see what this or that person is up to, or this group or that group, this Christian denomination or that Christian denomination.
The best kinds of sins or issues of the faith for us to go after are those we ourselves have struggled with.
For example, let’s say we have been brought out of addiction. As one who suffered addiction and as one who was freed by the grace of the Lord, we understand. We understand the grip of addiction, and we have first-hand experience of the healing Jesus offers. Those who have not suffered addiction might not understand; they might attack the addict personally with harsh words or simply with words of ignorance that lack proper compassion and perspective.
The thing is though, most of us have been addicted to something — even those who are harsh towards someone who is addicted differently than they are. If you have been addicted to smoking, do you despise a heroine addict? Are you addicted to your phone yet despise the person who is addicted to porn? It should not be so. Hypocrisy is something we should all be on guard against, and we should not despise the hypocrite either, because we have all acted hypocritically. The solution? Seek to our own salvation first.
If we have not been there, then we don’t really know.
If we have been there, then we should not forget mercy, but that’s a topic for another time.
Let’s say we observe some kind of sin or understanding issue, yet we ourselves have not experienced this thing. Can we help? We can make educated assumptions based on what we have observed and similar things we have been through, but we do not really get it. If we do not really get the enemy we are fighting against — and I speak of the sin and lying ideas, not the person — then we do not have the right tools for effective battle against it.
Though there is a time and a place for all things, including rebuke and standing up for what is right, if our hearts are not performing these tasks out of love and real understanding, then we are going to go about it in the wrong way. In so doing, we can actually make matters worse and drive people further away from Jesus.
Another thing to keep in mind, which is the closing point of this article, is this:
Those who are weakest among us often become the strongest, so we should not despise them during their times of weakness.
In Jesus, when we are weak, we are made strong. When we are weak to something, and we recognize that we are unable to behave in the right way while also knowing that Jesus is the way towards overcoming our struggle, we are as one who is “poor in the spirit.” Jesus teaches, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus also teaches that many “first will be last and last will be first.”
Those who are poor in spirit and seek Jesus are given power by the Holy Spirit to overcome, and though the struggle might take a long time before freedom comes fully, once they are established in the right way they are stronger than one who never struggled in the first place. The struggle makes us strong in the faith and strong in righteousness.
Those who are very sinful have the most potential to be very strong by the working of Jesus Christ. “Those who are whole do not need the Physician,” as Jesus says.
We should be careful in despising our weaker brethren, whether they are struggling with an obvious sin, matter of doctrine, legalism, or some other struggle in the faith. If they belong to the Lord, the Holy Spirit will convict them in his perfect time, and then the work will begin. Once healed, that person we despised could be stronger in the faith and in the things of God than we are — and chances are they will be.
Every Christian, regardless of background, age, or denomination has something they are not getting right.
We all have sin we need to work on, whether it is something outward and easily seen or corruption concealed in the heart. We all have ideas about God and doctrine that is not purely true. We all have areas in which we are attempting to please God by our own efforts (or legalism), and we all take the liberties in Christ for granted at times.
These might not be true for all of us — but one thing is certain — we have all fallen short, and if we are still alive and claim to be faultless, then we are liars. If we were complete, there would be no need for our continued existence. Jesus himself was not perfected until the cross. Sinless, yes. But, not perfected. He said so himself.
We should all be on a journey upward in the things of the kingdom of heaven. We should be growing and learning throughout our lives as we are conformed to the image of Christ. As the body of Christ, we should be helping one another, holding others up as higher than ourselves, never despising or condemning — always knowing that the weakest among us will be our strongest members — and often most equipped for helping others with compassion and proper understanding.
1 Corinthians 12:14-27
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.
25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
Questions for myself:
- Am I looking at myself as honestly as I should be? Maybe not. I usually feel like I am convicted of sin adequately, but I’m sure there are hidden sins. I trust the Lord to bring them to light in his good time.
- Do I ask the Holy Spirit to search my heart? I have, but I could do better about this. For now, the sins I am aware of are enough of a battle. Once overcome, then it’s on to the next!
- Do I forget that Jesus was patient with me during my struggles with sin? I forget this at times, especially with people I have a long and painful history with. I am learning patience with people in general, though I need more work done in this.
- Do I forget that it was the Lord that gave me a heart of repentance? I forget this sometimes too. Sometimes I do not understand sins that people commit over and over and never repent, but instead blame others or otherwise justify themselves. I have a hard time being patient in these cases, knowing that only the Lord can convict them and open their hard hearts.
- Do I forget that I need mercy, therefore I should show mercy? The Lord has taught me a lot about mercy, especially over the past year or so. Especially among those within the faith. I need His mercy, so I do not dare place limits on His mercy for others, regardless of their faith or sin struggles. To do so is to pass judgments we cannot make.
- Do I condone sin to make others more comfortable? Not so much. I used to, but these days I think I struggle more with being overly offensive, though that is lessening fairly rapidly over recent months.
- Do I attack sin which I have not myself experienced or understand? I have, and I do. This is something I’m really thinking about, which is why I’m writing this. 🙂