It is very important for us to understand how God wants us to treat one another. The Lord has given us many instructions on how to treat our brothers and sisters. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is that we are to love God with all our heart, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
When we understand how much God loves us we will look upon our fellow men, knowing that God loves them just as much as He loves us. The closer we come to God, the more we will have compassion upon our brothers and sisters, just as Jesus did when He was on earth. “Jesus,… saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and He began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34) Christ is our example, and we are instructed to walk even as He walked. “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.” (1 John 2:6)
When we look at our neighbors, whom we are to love as ourselves, we should be moved with compassion. And not only that, we should see the necessity of teaching them many things, as Jesus did.
We are to look at all people with compassion, and not with pride. God said, “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: A proud look.”(Proverbs 6:16, 17) The first thing on the list of things that God hates is a proud look, or looking at someone else with the thought that we are better than they. There is a principle we need to remember to guard us from giving a proud look: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”(Philippians 2:3) One sure way to guard against pride is by esteeming everyone else as better than yourself.
Let us take a look at what the Bible says about how we are to communicate with others. Paul wrote, “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1, 2) The Greek word that was translated “rebuke” in this verse is only used once in the Bible. This word means “to chastise (with words).” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary) It also means “To chide, to strike upon, to beat upon.” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). As you can see, this word means to use words to chastise or beat upon a person. This type of verbal abuse is prohibited, and would only be used to lift the speaker up above the one who is being verbally abused. If we are moved with compassion toward our brothers and sisters and look upon them as better than ourselves, we will not use such an unkind and harsh way of communicating with them.
These verses tell us to intreat them as a family member. The Greek word that was translated “intreat” means “to desire, invite, invoke.” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary) It also means “to beg, to beseech, to encourage, to strengthen.” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon) If a brother has erred from the faith, or done something against someone, then we are to plead with him to change the course he has chosen.
We must be careful what manner of communication we use when dealing with a situation like this. The same exact words could be spoken by two different individuals, but one may have a much worse effect upon the situation. This is because of the tone of voice. The whole manner of deportment of the one speaking could push someone away, rather than draw them to Christ. God wants us to bring people to Christ to be forgiven rather than push them away from Christ.
Jesus said, “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.”(Matthew 18:15) If we have a problem with someone, we are not to go and tell someone else. What was done against you in private, should be dealt with in private. There is no need for others to be brought into the matter. Solomon wrote, “Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.” (Proverbs 25:9, 10) He also wrote, “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” (Proverbs 11:13)
Jesus gave us counsel as to what to do if our brother will not hear us. He said, “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” (Matthew 18:16) If you have a problem with someone, and you have already gone to that person and he would not hear you, then, and only then, should you bring one or two more people with you to talk with the person. “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” (Matthew 18:17)
If something wrong was done that was known by many people, then before many people the thing should be dealt with. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”(1 Timothy 5:20) But if something wrong was done, and you and the other person are the only ones who know about it, then it should be dealt with secretly and should not be revealed to anyone else.
How we should react to rebuke
Solomon wrote, “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” (Proverbs 27:5) It is better to openly rebuke someone than to think that you are doing them a favor by keeping it in. You may think that you love them too much to rebuke them. This is not love, for Christ said, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)
“They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.” (Proverbs 28:4). If you go along with what the wicked are doing, and even tell them that it is not wrong, you are as guilty as they are. Those who keep the law will contend with the wicked. Not in a manner that will push them further away, but rather cause them to change.
“He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” (Proverbs 29:1) Once we have done all that we can in a spirit of compassion, if that person still desires to rebel against God, there is nothing else we can do but pray for them. If we have any love and compassion for them, we must let them know of the path of life.
Solomon wrote, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Proverbs 27:6) A true friend will love enough to rebuke and chasten when it is needed. Do not fool yourself into believing that refraining from rebuking someone is love.
God said to Ezekiel, “So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.” (Ezekiel 33:7-9) God has called His people to be watchmen on the walls warning people of coming danger.
David would have appreciated the watchmen. He said, “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.” (Psalm 141:5) This must be our attitude if we are expecting to be prepared to meet our God. There are many evil things in our lives that we do not see, yet they still have to be dealt with.
The book of Job reveals what type of an attitude Christians should have. “That which I see not teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.” (Job 34:32) Let us all be willing and eager to hear the rebukes of the Lord which come through our friends and, sometimes, through other people.
“He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.” (Proverbs 28:23) “A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.” (Proverbs 17:10) Not only should we be willing to hear rebukes, but also to give them when necessary. “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” (Proverbs 27:17) A man sharpens, or helps perfect, the character of his friend. We need friends to encourage and strengthen us.
“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10) “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9) The right kind of friends are very important and helpful in our Christian experience.
I pray that we will all learn to have a closer relationship with our Creator so that we will be ready to hear every word that proceeds out of His mouth, whether it be a rebuke or not. In this process, I pray that we also will have a better relationship with our Christian brethren. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19) ?