Sabbath, June 18, 2016

“The Lord desires His followers to exercise great care in dealing with one another. They are to lift up, to restore, to heal. But there is to be in the church no neglect of proper discipline.…

“God’s love for the fallen race is a peculiar manifestation of love–a love born of mercy, for human beings are all undeserving. Mercy implies imperfection of the object toward which it is shown. It is because of sin that mercy was brought into active exercise.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 264.

Who is responsible?

1. May we think that we rarely make mistakes or exhibit faulty behavior? What is our very first Christian duty when we become conscious of our shortcomings?

James 3:2 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.

Proverbs 20:9 Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?

Matthew 5:23, 24 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

“There is a wonderful power in silence. When impatient words are spoken to you, do not retaliate. Words spoken in reply to one who is angry usually act as a whip, lashing the temper into greater fury. But anger met by silence quickly dies away. Let the Christian bridle his tongue, firmly resolving not to speak harsh, impatient words. With the tongue bridled, he may be victorious in every trial of patience through which he is called to pass.

“In his own strength man cannot rule his spirit. But through Christ he may gain self-control. In His strength he may bring his thoughts and words into subjection to the will of God. The religion of Christ brings the emotions under the control of reason and disciplines the tongue. Under its influence the hasty temper is subdued, and the heart is filled with patience and gentleness.” –Messages to Young People, pp. 135, 136.

2. Should we seek reconciliation only when we are the offender, or also when we are offended? What have you experienced in this area? What should be our solution to problems among brethren?

Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.

Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

“But sin is not to be lightly regarded. The Lord has commanded us not to suffer wrong upon our brother. He says, ‘If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him.’ Luke 17:3. Sin is to be called by its right name, and is to be plainly laid out before the wrongdoer.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 248.

“You both need a gentler touch. Your words are to soothe, not to harass. Let your hearts be filled with love for souls. With a deep, tender interest, work for those around you. If you see one making a mistake, go to him in the way Christ has pointed out in His word, and see if you cannot talk the matter over with Christlike tenderness. Pray with him, and believe that the Saviour will show you the way out of the difficulty.” –Evangelism, p. 637.

Speak to the right person

3. If we speak to a brother about something improper that he has done and he is unwilling to listen, is it correct to just “write off” the offender and regard him as a stranger? How would we feel if the Lord were to do that to us?

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

“The True Witness says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.’ Revelation 3:20. Every warning, reproof, and entreaty in the word of God or through His messengers is a knock at the door of the heart. It is the voice of Jesus asking for entrance. With every knock unheeded, the disposition to open becomes weaker. The impressions of the Holy Spirit if disregarded today, will not be as strong tomorrow. The heart becomes less impressible, and lapses into a perilous unconsciousness of the shortness of life, and of the great eternity beyond.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 489, 490.

“In Jerusalem, Jesus beheld a symbol of the world that had rejected and despised His grace. He was weeping, O stubborn heart, for you! Even when Jesus’ tears were shed upon the mount, Jerusalem might yet have repented, and escaped her doom. For a little space the Gift of heaven still waited her acceptance. So, O heart, to you Christ is still speaking in accents of love: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.’ ‘Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.’ Revelation 3:20; 2 Corinthians 6:2.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 151.

4. What should we think of one who does not speak with his offending brother about a difficulty while telling others about the offense? What will fall on us if we act in this way?

Leviticus 19:17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.

Psalm 141:5 Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.

1 Timothy 5:20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

“Christ’s instruction as to the treatment of the erring repeats in more specific form the teaching given to Israel through Moses: ‘Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in anywise rebuke thy neighbor, that thou bear not sin for him.’ Leviticus 19:17, margin. That is, if one neglects the duty Christ has enjoined, of trying to restore those who are in error and sin, he becomes a partaker in the sin. For evils that we might have checked, we are just as responsible as if we were guilty of the acts ourselves.

“But it is to the wrongdoer himself that we are to present the wrong. We are not to make it a matter of comment and criticism among ourselves; nor even after it is told to the church, are we at liberty to repeat it to others.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 441.

Prayer and mercy

5. What can happen if we permit bitterness instead of love to take root in our hearts? Who can be affected by this?

Deuteronomy 29:18, last part … Lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood.

Hebrews 12:14, 15 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.

“Transgression placed the whole world in jeopardy, under the death sentence. But in heaven there was heard a voice saying, ‘I have found a ransom.’ ” –(Letter 22, 1900) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1076.

“A knowledge of the faults of Christians will be only a cause of stumbling to the unbelieving world; and by dwelling upon these things, we ourselves can receive only harm; for it is by beholding that we become changed.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 441.

6. How do we consider our debt to the Lord and men–as enormous (ten thousand talents), or as small (only a hundred cents)? Is our attitude similar to that of the king in Jesus’ parable or to that of the unmerciful servant?

Matthew 18:26-30 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

“How many are today manifesting the same spirit. When the debtor pleaded with his lord for mercy, he had no true sense of the greatness of his debt. He did not realize his helplessness.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 245.

“We were all debtors to divine justice, but we had nothing with which to pay the debt. Then the Son of God, who pitied us, paid the price of our redemption. He became poor that through His poverty we might be rich. By deeds of liberality toward His poor we may prove the sincerity of our gratitude for the mercy extended to us. ‘Let us do good unto all men,’ the apostle Paul enjoins, ‘especially unto them who are of the household of faith.’ Galatians 6:10.… ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.’ Mark 14:7; Matthew 7:12.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 652.

7. Therefore, what should we do every time we kneel and ask for forgiveness from God? How are we instructed by Jesus to forgive our brother?

Mark 11:25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

Colossians 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

Matthew 18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

“When one who professes to serve God wrongs or injures a brother, he misrepresents the character of God to that brother, and the wrong must be confessed, he must acknowledge it to be sin, in order to be in harmony with God. Our brother may have done us a greater wrong than we have done him, but this does not lessen our responsibility. If when we come before God we remember that another has aught against us, we are to leave our gift of prayer, of thanksgiving, of freewill offering, and go to the brother with whom we are at variance, and in humility confess our own sin and ask to be forgiven.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 58, 59.

“We have a divine audience to which to present our requests. Then let nothing prevent us from offering our petitions in the name of Jesus, believing with unwavering faith that God hears us, and that He will answer us. Let us carry our difficulties to God, humbling ourselves before Him. There is a great work to be done; and while it is our privilege to counsel together, we must be very sure, in every matter, to counsel with God, for He will never mislead us. We are not to make flesh our arm. If we do, depending chiefly upon human help, human guidance, unbelief will steal in, and our faith will die.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 487.

For further study

Proverbs 25:12; 9:8

Ephesians 4:32

Luke 6:38

The tower of repentance

Near Hoddam Castle, Dumfrieshire, Scotland, was a tower called “The Tower of Repentance.” It is told that an Englishman, as he was walking near the castle one day, saw a shepherd boy lying on the lawn near the tower reading the Bible.

“What are you reading, lad?” asked the passerby.

“The Bible, sir,” replied the boy.

“The Bible. You must be wiser than the parish priest. Can you tell me the way to heaven?”

Not the least disturbed by the man’s mocking tone, the shepherd said, “Yes, sir, I can; you must take the path to the tower.”

The man realized that the boy had learned well the lesson of his book; after uttering an insult, he left the boy and walked on in silence.

Dear friend, have you been to “the tower of repentance”? If not, please realize that you must enter it.

If we have offended someone, it is obvious that it is our duty to meet the offended brother and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. If the brother is the offender, according to Jesus’ teaching, we are still instructed to go, help him recognize his mistake, and take the first step toward reconciliation. In every case, whoever is the offender, we have to enter the tower of repentance, love, and forgiveness. May the Lord help us continually to make this experience. –Adapted from N.T. Anecdotal as quoted in A. Lerín, 500 Ilustraciones, No. 14.