By Jeffery Kingry
Ever since the week I obeyed the Gospel I have observed that my brethren have had problems. At the tender age of eighteen I was confronted with my first taste of animosity between brethren. The preacher spoke out against worldliness. A brother with sore toes and a “pricked” heart called for an “emergency business meeting.” He demanded a public apology or a new preacher. When neither seemed to be forthcoming and his bellicose demands did not cow the brethren into “firing” the preacher, he dramatically stalked out in a rage, slamming doors and spraying gravel all over the parking lot as he took “his contribution someplace else!” Oblivious to the embarrassed chatter of the brethren I could only weep with incredulity that such could happen among my brethren. I thought I had left all that kind of behavior behind in the world.
Years later, I still weep sometimes at the way brethren treat each other, but such behavior does not come as a surprise anymore. What is surprising is that brethren still believe they can act that way, treat their brethren like animals and expect to stand justified before God without any effort towards repentance or reconciliation. There is no place in the Lord’s church for sin, and God has given us the tools necessary to deal with unrepentant sinners.
What is Sin?
Scripture defines sin as violation of God’s law (1 Jn. 3:4; 5:17), violation of conscience (Jas. 4:17), or presumptive living (Rom. 14:23).Basically the man approved of God is one who acts to please God and not himself (Rom. 15:3). The “unrighteous” man is one who acts without firm conviction that he is pleasing God with his action. That faith, knowing God approves, comes only with the written testimony of God. When I am unsure that I am doing right, but I act anyway without the written approval of God as my source of action, I sin. When I assume that God will approve my deed, my faith is then based upon my will and not God’s and I sin. And when I break God’s law, whether presumptively, ignorantly, or intentionally, I sin.
How Do I Treat Sin?
How one treats sin in this life determines ones “mental health.” Mental health is actually the Christian’s right relationship with man and God. God has promised us that living righteously will bring peace (Jas. 2:18), love, joy, (Gal. 5:22), and confidence (Psa. 42:11). But the scriptures also point out that sin, guilt for sin, lack of true repentance and reconciliation produces not only ultimate spiritual death but physical and mental strain that brings intense pain in this world (Psa. 38:3; Prov. 14:30).
Righteousness means simply, “Being right.” One is “right” when he acts “righteously.” Only God has a right to determine the “right” way. God has given us in His word the right response for every situation we may be confronted with (2 Tim. 3:16,17). In our “walk” through life the path of the just is as a shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day (Prov. 4:18). The “right way” not only brings right relationships (peace) with God and man (cf. 1 Jn. 1:7), but also produces physical and mental vigor: “Let not wisdom depart from thine eyes: keep it in the midst of thy heart. For it is life unto those that find it, and health to all their flesh” (Prov. 4:21,22).
Many brethren are miserable, unhappy, and make life for their brethren much like their own because they miss this fundamental fact. Righteousness to many saints for years has been centered solely in “doctrine” rather than personal living. The “doctrine of Christ” includes more than the work and worship of the church, and the negative aspects of a life without worldliness. Many define their doctrine mostly in a negative sense, “Righteousness is not using an instrument of music, not using vain repetitions, not fellowshipping liberals/anti’s/legalists/pharisees/digressives, not drinking, smoking, or reading Playboy Magazine.” Many think that they are justified for what they do not do. The scriptures declare “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Being Christ-like does include not doing certain things (cf. l Cor. 6:9-11), but above all, it means doing what is right (Phil. 1:9-11). Failure to do right, to respond with God’s righteousness to difficulties, trials, and temptations, is to sin (Jas. 4:17).
How God Treats Sin
When we react rightly to sin, therefore, we must respond to it the same way God does. God does not overlook sin. He does not consider some sins “petty”. God does not follow double standards, showing respect for people He “likes” and being censorious of those He “dislikes.” God does not minimize sin by saying, “That is just the way some people are.” Changing people from “the way they are” was so important to God that it took the suffering, pain-filled death of His Son to change people. God has given only one way to overcome sin: confrontation, repentance, and reconciliation. Matt. 5:23,24 demands reconciliation between men. Matt. 18:15-18 demands confrontation between brethren because of sin and either reconciliation or discipline. This is God’s righteousness. There is no other way.
“My Soul Is My Own!”
But it is not. God bought it, and it cost the blood of Jesus Christ, and you can no longer use it as you please. You are not entitled to petty hatreds, malice, anger, envy, and covetousness. You cannot let resentments and hurts build up in your heart, finding vent like a jet of steam in hateful talk, criticism, backbiting, and hateful deeds. You are not allowed by God to “worry yourself sick.” You no longer can say to God, “I cannot go to my brother to take the division and hurt away from between us. I just cannot do it.” God has declared that you not only can do it (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13; Phil. 4:13) but you must do it.
We must react to sin by rebuke, teaching, exhortation, with a view to change behavior . It is not enough to “go forward” some Sunday or Wednesday when one has sinned against a brother. There must be a reconciliation of those brethren in the Lord (Matt. 5: 2326). Among ourselves we must confront sin in whatever form it takes (Rom. 15:14).
Problems Have Solutions
Man can be lazy, selfish, and ignorant. It takes a great deal of effort to produce anything worthwhile. The farmer toils in the sweat of his brow for the fruit of the earth. The scholar labors in study and searching to produce the fruit of the intellect. The child of God must labor just as diligently to produce the fruit of the spirit: a Christlike life. When the Christian permits events, environment, and things to control him, he is submitting to the Devil and not to God. How many times have you yourself said in defense of your actions., “But did you see/ hear what he did to me? A Christian must take the initiative in life to subdue sin and conquer the world, not be conquered by it. We do not act as a reaction to the world. We are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. The world has its existence in reaction to us!
Christians solve problems by the power of God. We do not live with a problem we overcome it. We do not reject a problem because it is difficult, we grasp it and battle it with the armor and weapons of God. We are not deflected by sin, we conquer sin. Every test overcome by making a godlike response gives us strength to deal with the next trial (Jas. 1:2-4). We are not responsible for the way the world or the brethren treat us, but we are responsible for the way we treat them. You are responsible before God for what you are.
Truth Magazine XXI: 21, pp. 328-329
May 26, 1977