By Dusty Owens
The Scriptures have much to say about my relationship with an erring brother, what my responsibilities are toward him, and what my attitude and disposition must be at all times. My brother may be wrong morally or doctrinally, but no matter, I have been given a definite way of dealing with him, prescribed by God in His word.
Too many times problems occur between brethren because an extreme or radical position is taken. One extreme is to ignore all error in hopes that the problem will go away. Perhaps this was the thinking of the Corinthian brethren in I Corinthians 5. Tolerating persistent and flagrant sinning among God’s people is against the will of God. “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out the old lump, even as ye are unleavened” (vv. 6-7).
The opposite extreme, and one that I judge to be radical, is to consider everyone in error, morally or doctrinally, that does not believe exactly as I do on all issues. Certainly, I have a responsibility before God to study intently all Scriptures that deal with every major issue before us, and to reach some kind of conclusion if I can. But, it just may well be that over some highly controversial issue that brethren have argued over for decades (or centuries), I am still undecided. I should not be stampeded, threatened or cajoled into “lining up” with one faction or another. I should not be deemed 44suspect,” or “unsound” because I am studying conscientiously. Also, I should be able to ask questions of those I consider more experienced and wiser without setting off a ripple of gossip and slander as to my “soundness” or faithfulness to the Lord. If I expect brethren to treat me with love and compassion, even in controversy, then should I not be willing to treat my brethren the same way?
A Man Overtaken In Trespass
We all “sin and fall short of the glory of God,” but occasionally, a brother will be overtaken by a specific sin for which he has a weakness. He does not intend to do wrong, but it happens. Furthermore, he continues to attend services, as he should! Too many times, as brethren find out about the sin of the weak brother, there is discussion in whispered hushes about him, instead of a sincere effort on the part of a spiritual brother to go to him in a spirit of gentleness that he might be helped and restored back to the faith. There seems to be far too much apathy and disinterest on our part. Is this a sign that there is no “spiritual one” among us (Gal. 6:1-3)?
We should be impressed with the kind of attitude or disposition of heart expected of us by God in our dealings with those we are trying to help. When we go to another who needs our teaching and exhorting, it must not be with a spirit of arrogance and superiority, a holier-than-thou display. If we are truly “spiritual,” we will go to another in love, peace, kindness, longsuffering, goodness, meekness, self-control and gentleness (Gal. 5:22-23).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 13, p. 396
July 4, 1985