Volume. XXII, No. 21
From the Pastorís Heart: Some Things That We Do Not Want To Do
The church is not a building but a gathering of the people of God. They are born into the family of God, and they are given many special names such as pilgrims, royal priesthood, lively stones, spiritual house, chosen generation, holy nation, or peculiar people. It seems that they have all the good names. When they sing praises to God and pray to Him with all sincerity, there is a sense of holiness and sanctity. When they talk about the absolute truths in the Scriptures, they look like heavenly men and women. Well, in a sense, that is true because they are all waiting for the moment when they go to their eternal home. Their Father is in heaven (Our Father, which art in heaven), and their Savior is at the right hand of the Father. They live in the world, but are not of the world. All these descriptions and talks about the people of God are beautiful and precious. Then, we come down to the level on earth. We have seen conflicts amongst them, and some are really nasty ones. We have witnessed that they do not love one another. They are divisive and argumentative. They are not humble and even backbite. They are so used to loving only those who love them. They are accustomed to like whom they like. It only indicates that they exclude some people from their love-list, though those excluded people are worshipping in the same place. Luke 6:31 says, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Though it is a golden rule given by the Lord Jesus, we have not properly kept it, which has resulted in hurting us and others. There are so many messages of peace in Christian churches, but the Christians are proven to be not so-peaceful people. Sometimes, in the name of the love of truth, we have committed of sins of jeering others who disagree with us and despising them. Sometimes, even among the truth-lovers, there was no love among themselves. Some fundamentalist Christians’ perspectives are not too much different from those of Islamic fundamentalists. Thus, until all the disagreeing parties are removed, they shall not rest. Peace, peace they say, but there is no peace within them. We are not free from such faults. Many people visiting churches are disillusioned and disappointed by “un-saintly” behaviors of Christians. What shall we do?
There are many holy commandments sent from above. They are both positive and negative commandments. One interesting observation is that the Bible has more negative commandments than positive ones. Maybe we are focused on positive side of commandments too much, while neglect negative ones. It seems that sometimes positive commandments and encouragements alone are not sufficient enough to correct and build us up. I am going to discuss a few negative commandments in order to help us to improve our relationships and fellowships. There are some things that we do not want to do. There are many of those examples, but I’ll list only a few of them.
The first one I’ll begin with is a heavy weight. 1 Corinthians 6:7, “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” I hope and pray that none of us will go into this sort of situation to sue or to be sued. However, there is clear injunction to the believers that they are not supposed to take their brethren (in Christ) to the court. There are two words we need to know. The first one is “wrong.” It means: “1) absolutely 1a) to act unjustly or wickedly, to sin, 1b) to be a criminal, to have violated the laws in some way 1c) to do wrong 1d) to do hurt 2) transitively 2a) to do some wrong or sin in some respect 2b) to wrong some one, act wickedly towards him 2c) to hurt, damage, harm.” Despite all the bad things in its definition, the Bible says not to take the wrong doer (among the believers of Jesus Christ) to the court. The second word to know is “defraud.” It means “to defraud, rob, despoil.” One point I need to make is that all these issues are related to brother-to-brother in Christ relationship, not in other cases. It is so sad to see that Christians are attempting to solve their issues in secular courts.
The second negative commandment is a bit lighter than the first one, but equally important. Romans 14:13 says, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.” The preceding verses to this give us a few examples such as eating certain kinds of food or observing certain religious days. When this verse talks about not-to-judge, it does not mean that we should not make any discernment on all matters. What it actually tells us is that we do not have to pass condemnation to others who may have some peculiar ideas and practices, which are not denying the fundamental truths of the Bible. We do not make our own Christian rules and impose them on our brethren. We do give rooms to our brethren to exercise their freedom. In that sense, our fellowship does not stop with denominational tags. There is room for Christians to agree to disagree.
The third negative commandment we ought to know is that we should not talk about someone behind his or her back. It also includes wrong ways of communications amongst the brethren. Sometimes we say to our brethren the truth but in wrong ways. As a result our sincerity is misunderstood, and our relationships deteriorate. Some people can say right things in all kinds of wrong ways. Thus, their speech does not build up brethren but hurts and destroys them. It also includes the cases that we like heated arguments. Or our attitude may be seriously argumentative. In fact, such talks may destroy the relationships within the believers’ community. Galatians 5:15 says, “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” It is an exhortation to the duties of charity. How true it is that we are consuming each other, if we are biting and devouring each other!
The fourth negative commandment we ought to heed to is that we should not speak ill of each other. There is no perfect man or perfect society in this world. It is quite easy to find someone else’ faults and speak against them. In this regard, James 3:2 teaches us a lesson. “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” James says in verse 10, “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” 4:11 says, “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.” Peter also says in 1 Peter 2:1, “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings.” Recently I had an opportunity to visit an elderly lady and spend some time with her. Even though there was a moment she could have spoken about someone as she had known, she rather chose to be quite. She was very gracious to the other person. It is something that we all must learn. Some people edify others with words, but some tear them down. Words can edify, but surely they can hurt, too.
The last but not the least important negative commandment is that we should not envy each other. Quite often the root of envy is our pride. We want to prove ourselves better and higher than others. We are boasting of ourselves and glorying over others. James points out the wrongs of boasting in 4:16, “But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.” The reason for not boasting is in Proverbs 27:1, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” The Lord advises in Jeremiah 9:23, “Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches.”
When I was in the military training camp, I learnt how to shoot. The trainer taught me not only how to shoot but also how not to shoot. Both positive and negative teachings were essential to the trainees. Negative commandments are as important commandments as the positive commandments and have significant impacts on us. Hope and pray that we all heed to these commandments and have better fellowship amongst the same minded brethren in Christ Jesus.
Lovingly, Pastor Ki