“We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2)
Perhaps you’ve noticed one or two flaws in a few of the Christians around you — just maybe, but that’s not really so surprising, right? After all, we’ve got a few flaws ourselves ……
If the church is supposed to be a place where hope abounds — even with sin hanging around as an all too frequent visitor — our responses to one another in these inevitable moments of unworthiness are crucially important. If all we do is stand back and register our critique and frustration, rather than apply ourselves to our brother or sister’s improvement, we only cause more damage in an already destructive situation ….
Scripture counsels us to take a more hopeful approach. Let’s look at that:
1) See the person in their process ~ God isn’t finished with anybody. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6), and since Jesus hasn’t come back yet, that’s all the proof we need that He hasn’t abandoned the job of completing this “good work” that He started in the hearts of each believer. He hasn’t decided that the one who stumbles is a lost cause; and if He hasn’t, we certainly shouldn’t. Allow one who’s struggling room for being a work in progress …..
2) Cover them ~ Notice I didn’t say cover “for them” either. Enabling people to escape consequences or feel entitled to their sin is not a functional equivalent of love. But to cover the individual — being discreet about the matter, keeping to a minimum the people who need to know what’s going on is a loving expression of both grace and protection. “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9). This doesn’t keep us from perhaps needing to talk boldly or straight with the person, but it does keep us from widening their public exposure to unhelpful rumor and ridicule …..
3) Give mercy ~ Grace means getting what we don’t deserve — the forgiving favor of God; mercy means not getting what we do deserve — an eternity separated from Him in hell. Our most logical, reflexive response to someone whose ways are running counter to the faith they profess — especially someone close to us, is to bring down the hammer with heavy authority. But be wary of such a quick-strike approach, even if for no other reason than your own self-protection. “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).
4) Examine yourself ~ Look in the mirror. “Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Even if we’re not the one stumbling at the moment, we’ve stumbled before, and we’ll probably stumble again. That’s why every Christian, when noticing a brother or sister struggling, always needs to know where to find the nearest mirror. Examining ourselves first will help us watch more carefully what we do and say to them …..
As long as we’re in close proximity to other believers, and they with us, there will be ample opportunity to notice each other’s flaws. But let’s take these opportunities to help make each other better, spreading more hope instead of gossip …..
“Above all else guard your hearts with all diligence, for everything you do flows from it” and allow me to go a step further with the next verse, “keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk from your lips.” (Proverbs 4:23- 24). Another version states, “be careful what you think, because your thoughts will run your life.” ….
Saints, we won’t be entirely perfected until we reach heaven, but there we shall shine as the sun in His strength and glory. However, while we are here on this earth, attentive hearing of the Word of God and applying it to our lives daily is of a work of grace in our own hearts and a good means of carrying it on to others on the same journey. There in the Word is a remedy for all diseases of the soul, and we must guard our souls and our hearts that we do not cause harm to another tender reed and bruise them with harsh words or quick judgments as we seek to win souls …..
Above all, we all should seek from our Lord Jesus that living water that leads us into eternal life, and the power of the sanctifying Holy Ghost by which we are enabled to put away a froward mouth and perverse lips. We must walk by the commands and instructions of God’s Word that our eyes and hearts keep from beholding the world’s view lest we compromise ourselves and His Word ….
Something to ponder: what’s usually your first thought when seeing or hearing about another believers unwise or undisciplined behaviors? Do you tend to be critical, making snap judgments based on appearances; or is your tendancy empathy, mercy and grace recognizing your own times of immature shortcomings along your journey ??
In summary; if someone had practiced these hopeful responses towards you at a time when you might have stumbled or acted impulsively, how much differnt might your path of repentance and change have been?
Let us pray ~
Lord, forgive the past and enable us to follow You more closely for the time to come. You alone are perfectly holy, good, and blameless. You have set high standards, yet, not unattainable, knowing that our fullest blessings will only come from being totally surrendered to Your Will and Your Word in all obedience. You are rich in mercy having given Your life for us while we were yet still sinners, that we might know You and choose to follow You and have life eternal. Guide me and help me Lord Jesus to be an example of Your patience, gentleness, and perspective towards those, who like me, are prone to fall short of what You’ve called us to be and do. In Jesus’ merciful name, I pray, Amen …