March 13, 2005
This will be my last letter to you all - at least for a while. I've never typed so much in my life and my rickety fingers say it's time to rest before I use up all the bits of wisdom I've been able to hem together over the years. Even a fool when he keeps silent appears wise - and I'd much rather fool you folks into thinking Solomon's words have rubbed some wisdom into my bones than letting my endless babblings show how little I know.
So, this topic is one all of my own choosing since it is one dear to my heart - and I'll call it "The Christian and Faults."
There is nothing perfect in this world. Every face has its blemish. Every field has its weed. No matter how many air-brushes and air-pesticides a person uses, the thorns and thistles are with us to the end. You'll never get "white flour out of a black coal bag" as Mr. Spurgeon said. One of the funniest things about being human, however, is that we tend to discover these mistakes very quickly in everyone but ourselves. Most men are like children standing in front of a carnival mirror - yet the distorted picture they see is one of near-perfection, not sinful silliness.
Jesus said it this way:
Luke 6:41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.
Most of us are running around with cedar fence-poles sticking out of our eyes while we hunt for a fleck of lint in our brother's ocular apparatus. Let it be stated, you'll never get close enough to a man to really see him if you're sticking a fence-pole into his forehead! Let it also be stated that lint leaves faster than lumber! It takes no scientist to see at least a part of what Jesus was getting at is that we ought to pay a might more attention to our own stuff than we normally do... and not worry so much about the stuff in our neighbour.
Daughters of Eve and Sons of Adam have this in common - an inborn ability to think too high of themselves. Show me a critical and fault-finding woman and I'll show you a woman who's never seriously looked in the mirror of Truth. Open your mouth and all looks fine - until the dentist shines his bright light in there to find holes and stains galore. There are far too many denture-Christians, running around like they had Robert Redford's teeth when the fact is 18 years of coffee-drinking has done its damage. We were born damaged, and years of sin (as an unbeliever or a believer) means we have faults-a-plenty to contend with - most of them entirely unseen by us. It might surprise the average person to have everyone in the room write down one constructive criticism of them. Why, a whole book with multiple chapters, an index and colour illustrations could be written in an hour! That's why the Lord said through Solomon:
Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, / but love covers all offences.
Or, as Peter said in the New Testament:
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
The best way to handle another's faults is to soak them in a bucket of love. The worst medicine doesn't taste too bad in a glass of milk. Surround your liver and onions with some good old mashed potatoes and it'll go down a tad easier. Put some love into every relationship and you'll find you can bear more than an elephant.
If we thought more about what was good in others instead of what was wrong, we'd find life a tractor-load more pleasant and perhaps load up on a few good friends along the way. Some people are drawn to failings in others like sharks to fresh blood. The old shark wondered where all his friends had disappeared to... he should have looked in his belly!
Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Speaking of devouring one another, we would do good to give some special attention to all those "one-another's." I've often thought that every Christians ought to be taken to One Another College for a semester just to get these things figured out right in his head. If we would learn to do what it is we are supposed to do, there just plain wouldn't be any time left to worry about everybody else's faults. I count over 45 of them in the New Testament - and I am going to list them all here for you:
- Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. one another in showing honour.
- Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another.
- Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer
- Romans 15:5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,
- Romans 15:7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
- Romans 15:14 ... [ be] able to instruct one another.
- Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
- 1 Corinthians 11:33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another--
- 1 Corinthians 12:24 But God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it,that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
- 1 Corinthians 16:20 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
- 2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
- 2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
- Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
- Galatians 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
- Galatians 6:2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
- Ephesians 4:2 ...with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
- Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
- Ephesians 5:19 ...addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart,
- Ephesians 5:21 ...submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
- Colossians 3:9 ...Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
- Colossians 3:13 ...bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
- Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
- 1 Thessalonians 3:12 ...and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,
- 1 Thessalonians 4:9 ...Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
- Hebrews 3:13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
- Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
- James 4:11 ...Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.
- James 5:9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
- James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
- 1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
- 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
- 1 Peter 4:9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
- 1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:
- 1 Peter 5:5 Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
- 1 Peter 5:14 Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
- 1 John 3:11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
- 1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
- 1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
- 1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
- 1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
Love / Outdo / Live in harmony with / Do not pass judgment against / welcome / instruct / Greet / wait for / care / comfort / agree with /serve /Bear the burdens of / bear with / Be kind to / forgive /submit to / teach / admonish / abound in love for / encourage / build up / always seek to do good to / exhort every day / consider how to stir up to love and good works / confess your sins to / love earnestly from a pure heart / Show hospitality without grumbling / Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward / Greet with the kiss of love/ love ONE ANOTHER!
Jiminy Cricket, that's a list worth thinking about. I realize I haven't done much more than "rip those texts right out of their context" as your pastor would tell me... but they stand on their own well enough. Let a man or woman spend some time reading and memorizing half that list and they'll be a different person in a month if the Spirit of God is in them.
It's wise to learn your "one another's"
Then practice them when with your brothers!
Now, perhaps no faults are as difficult to put up with in others more than the ones that sting us. A neighbour may struggle with the odd little lie... but when his lie costs me a year's worth of corn - my temper is liable to show itself. Old Walter doesn't have much to say on this, as I've spent a good too many days of my life taking a spade to other men's eyeballs. But of late, the one thing that has helped me is considering my sins and their effect on my God.
Consider what Jesus endured while He walked on the earth - faults galore. How many times did others impugn his motives, blaspheme His name, twist His words and eventually condemn Him to die. Then there were just all the normal sins that were constantly going on around Him - wherever He went! But it was all love from Jesus. How much more do my faults effect Him? He sees them all, died for them all and must constantly witness them all. Yet, He continually loves me!
Consider the Father, who "makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." If the Lord is so good as to send the sun and rain on the atheist's field, then I have no business saying I can't tolerate a few little sins in my brother's life.
Consider the Holy Spirit, who gets "quenched" and "grieved" by us all the time - but never leaves or forsakes us.
Could we bear from one another,
What He daily bears from us?
Yet this glorious Friend and Brother,
Loves us though we treat Him thus:
Though for good we render ill,
He accounts us brethren still.
Words: John Newton, Olney Hymns (London: W. Oliver, 1779). Public Domain.
O, brothers and sisters, if the Great Tri-une God can put up with us, we most certainly ought to learn to put up with one another! Now, of course there are times when certain flagrant and hideous sins must be addressed, but even there, our tone and spirit is to be one of seeking reconciliation, not revenge!
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbour. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
Now I recently had a brother come and speak to me about one of my many faults, and I have to say how very thankful I was that he did. Here was a brother who came in humility and gentleness, not wagging a finger but offering a hand. It's never easy to have somebody straighten the mirror to show you what you really look like - but, at least in my life, I have to say, I still like what is not easy. Like so many of our faults, often the biggest problem is that we don't see them (or, we choose to not see them). Having a patient brother help you to see what is really there is a treasure not to be traded for gold. A brother that knows the Word well enough to know where you are straying is one thing - but one who has the pluck and courage to come at you with humility on the matter - well, as I said, he is priceless.
Now, one sure cure to focusing on the faults of others is to be busy serving them all the time. Christians are a little like manure... spread them in the field to work and you can watch for the fruit... pile them up, let them sit around and a nasty stench floats in the air. If your mind is full of what's wrong with everyone else then I suggest you spread out and do some work: become your brother's servant. They may sound like the very opposite to good advice, but if you truly, in your heart of hearts, seek to serve others, there will be so much of your own yuck to deal with you won't have time to find fault with others.
Like one wise man once said, "Let me serve you and I will be happy - treat me like your servant and watch for my scorn!" You make it your goal to be least of all - all of the time - and you will soon find all kinds of wicked roots in your heart and specks in your eye. The Lord will bless you with all sorts of opportunities to scour away the evil and flush out your eyes! Show me a complaining and bitter man and I'll show you a man who doesn't serve his church family.
Most of the churches I've been to have sinners in them. And where there are sinners there is generally a little sin... sometimes a lot! Would that we all could learn to meet the brunt of that sin with love - real, hot, self-sacrificing, Spirit-empowered love. Doctrine is not less important than love, but I would rather you be known as a church of love than a church of good doctrine. Truth is, the two always go together.
Everyone laughed when the kettle called the pot black. And rightly so. You'd be surprised to find out how many faults you really have... a wise man would be busy looking into that before telling another man about his problems. The bald man has no business making fun of the bald. The sinner ought to keep his mitts off the sinner.
That's what old Walter thinks anyway.
Well, I am tired. March is never a good month for the rheumatics and this year is no exception. Perhaps I'll write to you all again another time, but that is enough for now. I hope these letters have been at least a little helpful. Mind you pay more attention to the Lord and His Word than an old coot like me. Time may have taught me a few lessons, but it's done more to teach me my faults than anything else.
Have a great discussion time!
P.S. I guess somebody from down there tried to call us, but we are still on the party line and Mrs. Fischer picked up by accident. I saw her at the post office last week, but for the life of her she couldn't remember your name (much like she can't remember her ring on the phone line!). So, sorry, but I don't know who you are to call you back. I'm sure you could talk to your pastor and be happy - once and a while he has something decent to say.
P.P.S. You may want to keep a close eye on the said pastor, that he doesn't get overworked, as now he'll have to go back to preparing his own material for Sunday nights.