“You Did It unto Me”
Speaking to a relative while seeking a solution to some problems, a patriarch said: “… We be brethren.” Genesis 13:8. This is a very great truth. We have come into existence because God, the Father of us all, has given us the precious gift of life. At birth, we all receive the same spirit; this should be enough to convince us that we derive our existence from the same source and thus all belong to one family. Although the circumstances of life separate us from one other, although we live in different cities, countries, and continents, and although we come from different races–generally with few possibilities to meet and know each other–we are still brothers, for we have the same original parents, the same Father in heaven, and the same Redeemer.
The concept of brotherhood is present in the family, in the church, and in society. Typically the word “brothers” is used to indicate individuals who have the same parents. We also speak of brothers in the Spirit, since we share the same faith. But how differently we understand what it means to be brothers! How differently we deal with each other! And, many times, how little harmony exists within the walls of the family where we live together for many years! For various reasons, in some cases we forget about others, focus our time and interest on ourselves, and deal with others as if they were perfect strangers, rather than seeing them as brothers!
Serious problems developed with the very first brothers in this world. And ever since that time, many difficulties have arisen to threaten such relationships. Nevertheless this doesn’t change the fundamental reality that we need to rediscover the deep meaning that “we are brethren”! The Lord had this in mind when He said, “… All ye are all brethren.” Matthew 23:8. He knows that differences of character, interest, culture, education, and opinion make it difficult to achieve understanding and harmony between individuals. For that very reason, He reaffirmed the second great commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” and concluded: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:39, 40. Jesus’ words are clear, and He gave an example of what He meant: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” John 13:34.
In the lessons for this quarter, it is our desire to rediscover the sacred value of brotherly love. With this goal in mind, we will consider the Bible’s teaching, examples, and promises, keeping in mind that our credibility in the world depends not just on our faith, but also on our brotherly love. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35. The Lord even clarified that whatever we do is not done simply to poor mortals but to Him: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” Matthew 25:40.
Citing a Bible verse, the Spirit of prophecy emphasizes: “We are to remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive.” –The Adventist Home, p. 474. This is true not only in financial matters but also in love, service, and ministry. How is this possible? The inspired answer is: “We are in this world to be a help and a blessing to one another, uniting with Christ in the effort to restore the image of God in man. In order to do this work, we must learn of Jesus. ‘Take My yoke upon you,’ He says, ‘and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’ In this promise there are no ‘ifs.’ Those who have experience in wearing Christ’s yoke of restraint and obedience know that it means to have rest and peace in Him. In obedience there is joy and consolation. Holy angels hover round about the obedient to keep them in paths of peace.” –Atlantic Union Gleaner, September 9, 1903.
“Picture a large circle, from the edge of which are many lines all running to the center. The nearer these lines approach the center, the nearer they are to one another.
“Thus it is in the Christian life. The closer we come to Christ, the nearer we shall be to one another. God is glorified as His people unite in harmonious action.” –The Adventist Home, p. 179.
As we study these lessons, let us come closer to Jesus, while we see the lessons not just as a doctrine to be understood and accepted but also as an experience to be made in our daily life. Then, one day, as promised, we will not only be greeted but also welcomed: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For … as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” Matthew 25:34, 35, 40.
–The brothers and sisters of the General Conference
Sabbath, April 2, 2016
“Love of self, pride and self-sufficiency lie at the foundation of the greatest trials and discords that have ever existed in the religious world…. ‘Press together, press together, be of one mind, of one judgment.’ Christ is the Leader, and you are brethren; follow Him. Walk in the light as He is in the light. Those who walk in the footsteps of Christ shall not walk in darkness, but those who draw apart in unsanctified independence cannot have God’s presence and blessing in the work….” –Christian Leadership, p. 11.
Counsel to those in conflict
1. Although Moses had access to the kingly court and was recognized as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, whom did he regard as his brothers?
Acts 7:23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
Exodus 2:11 And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.
“ ‘By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.’ Hebrews 11:24-26…. Yet with the world before him, he had the moral strength to refuse the flattering prospects of wealth and greatness and fame, ‘choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.’…
“He looked beyond the gorgeous palace, beyond a monarch’s crown, to the high honors that will be bestowed on the saints of the Most High in a kingdom untainted by sin. He saw by faith an imperishable crown that the King of heaven would place on the brow of the overcomer. This faith led him to turn away from the lordly ones of earth and join the humble, poor, despised nation that had chosen to obey God rather than to serve sin.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 245, 246.
2. What did he witness when he visited his brothers in slavery? What did he say to the one who was in the wrong? How earnestly did he speak to both men?
Exodus 2:13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?
Acts 7:26 And the next day he showed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?
“Impressions alone are not a safe guide to duty. The enemy often persuades men to believe that it is God who is guiding them, when in reality they are following only human impulse. But if we watch carefully, and take counsel with our brethren, we shall be given an understanding of the Lord’s will; for the promise is, ‘The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach His way.’ Psalm 25:9.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 279.
3. What was his motive in speaking to them in this manner? What did he hope to accomplish in telling them, “Ye are brethren”? Do we understand brotherhood as Moses did?
Acts 7:25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
Ephesians 4:31, 32 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
“Moses supposed that his education in the wisdom of Egypt had fully qualified him to lead Israel from bondage…. He felt that he was able to deliver them. He first set about his work by trying to gain the favor of his own people by redressing their wrongs.” –Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 342.
We are brothers
4. When Lot and Abram’s herdsmen got into conflict, what did Abram say to his nephew? What should not take place among brethren?
Genesis 13:7, 8 And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. 8And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.
Colossians 3:12, 13 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
“Here the noble, unselfish spirit of Abraham was displayed. How many under similar circumstances would, at all hazards, cling to their individual rights and preferences! How many households have thus been rent asunder! How many churches have been divided, making the cause of truth a byword and a reproach among the wicked! ‘Let there be no strife between me and thee,’ said Abraham, ‘for we be brethren;’ not only by natural relationship, but as worshipers of the true God. The children of God the world over are one family, and the same spirit of love and conciliation should govern them. ‘Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another’ (Romans 12:10), is the teaching of our Saviour. The cultivation of a uniform courtesy, a willingness to do to others as we would wish them to do to us, would annihilate half the ills of life. The spirit of self-aggrandizement is the spirit of Satan; but the heart in which the love of Christ is cherished, will possess that charity which seeketh not her own. Such will heed the divine injunction, ‘Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.’ Philippians 2:4.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 132, 133.
Brethren, accusers, and forgiveness
5. When challenged, how did the deacon Stephen appeal to his hearers, who become his accusers? What divine principle did Jesus give, showing how one should act under such circumstances?
Acts 7:2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran.
Luke 6:28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
“The Saviour of the world would have His co-laborers represent Him; and the more closely a man walks with God, the more faultless will be his manner of address, his deportment, his attitude, and his gestures. Coarse and uncouth manners were never seen in our Pattern, Christ Jesus. He was a representative of heaven, and His followers must be like Him.” –Gospel Workers, p. 91.
6. Even when they became so angry that they prepared to execute him, what were Stephen’s final words before his life ended? Who ended His life in the same way with words of forgiveness for His persecutors?
Acts 7:60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
“The Son of God is Himself the great Intercessor in the sinner’s behalf. He who has paid the price for its redemption knows the worth of the human soul. With an antagonism to evil such as can exist only in a nature spotlessly pure, Christ manifested toward the sinner a love which infinite goodness alone could conceive. In the agonies of the crucifixion, Himself burdened with the awful weight of the sins of the whole world, He prayed for His revilers and murderers, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ Luke 23:34.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 140.
“Jesus is your best Friend. Live by daily faith on the Son of God. Let your course of action be such that God can approve. Then you will be a blessing to others…. Do not outgrow the simple faith and trust of your childhood. When sick, your first request was, ‘Father, Mother, pray that the Lord will heal me and forgive my sins.’ When prayer was offered in your behalf, you made your simple prayer and thanked the Lord He had heard and answered, and with perfect faith and confidence you said, ‘I shall get well. The Lord has blessed me.’ You slept in perfect peace, in confidence that holy angels would guard your bed.” –This Day with God, p. 310.
7. Should there be contention between brothers? If a problem arises, what should one remember? What spiritual lesson did the Lord give concerning the relationship between brothers?
James 3:14, 16 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth…. 16For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
1 Corinthians 4:12, second part, 13 … Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
1 Peter 3:9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
“I hope that as Christians you will be awake to your ever-increasing responsibilities, and be prepared to act the part of faithful stewards, both of means and of talents. Will you lay aside all selfish interests, and all sectional feelings, and manifest your missionary zeal to work for the best interest of the cause of God? Will you put away all strife in the matter, and show that we are all one in Christ Jesus? God help us as a people to see how imperfect is our service to Him. May He help you to feel that you are brethren.” –Manuscript Releases, vol. 21, pp. 459, 460.
• What have I learned from this lesson?
• For me, is the word “brother” just a name or title like any other?
• What does it mean to have brothers?
• Should rifts exist among brethren?
• If we appreciate another person as our neighbor or brother, how will we act toward him?
• Why did the Lord give examples of how one should treat his brother?
How to “destroy” one’s enemies
The story is told of a Chinese emperor who, when told that there was an uprising in one of the provinces of his empire, said to his government ministers and military leaders: “Come. Follow me. I will soon destroy my enemies.”
When the emperor and his troops arrived at the place where the rebels were, he treated them kindly; and out of gratitude, they submitted to him again. Everyone in the emperor’s company thought he would order the immediate execution of those who had revolted against him, so they were greatly surprised to see him treat the rebels humanely and even lovingly. Seeing this, the emperor’s prime minister asked angrily: “How does this fulfill your promise, your Excellency? You said we came to destroy your enemies, but you have forgiven them all and treated them fondly.”
With a kindly attitude, the emperor replied: “I promised to destroy my enemies, and you see that no one is my enemy. I have made all of them my friends!”
How good it would be if we, as members of the family of Christ, would act with such a kind, forgiving spirit toward our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. –Adapted from Expositor Bíblico, quoted in A. Lerín, 500 Ilustraciones, No. 10.