Friday, December 17, 2010

Love Among Brethren

Love among Brethren
“For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.”  (Matthew 12:50)  The will of God is whatsoever God through Christ has instructed us to be.  The will of God is Christ.  It is every command given by Christ through His apostles.  Likewise the examples laid by them are also the foundation of Christianity.  If we do not do these things and progress in them we are in no way related to Christ, neither are we an heir of the kingdom, and by these things we rightly judge who our neighbor is and who our brother is.  Only to His disciples did Jesus give the new command:  Love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.  (John 13:34-35)
Once you have rightly discerned who your brother is, you must with caution, proceed to unfeigned love for him.  For those who have been stragglers this will be a cross; prior to this you had no man to compare yourself to, no brother to rebuke you with his righteous example, most of those who you visited with you know they thought only well of you, and in your own eyes being above every one you encountered for the duration of your lonely pilgrimage, though unawares, pride quickly rose to the occasion of inflating you with vain confidence, high opinion of self, and many flattering thoughts; Love is not puffed up.  (1 Corinthians 13)
You will be tempted to rejoice, that is, enjoy some bazaar form of relief or comfort when your brother stumbles.  You have been hard pressed by his example, as when others were hard pressed by yours.  You are suddenly in a very low place as when before you were in a high place.  It will further prove your love when he appears to be blind to his own faults and everyone else simply praises his blamelessness while you feel ashamed of yours. 
Now what if he and the brethren are not blind to his faults, but simply do not publically reprove him?  And what if they do not think of him as highly as you think they do?  Would you feel better?  Oh carnal child, full of all immaturity!  When will you learn to understand, think, and speak as a man?  (1 Corinthians 13:11) 
Furthermore, is it wrong if they discern that you need to be silenced, offended, or rebuked openly but your brother secretly?  According to the scriptures there is a time for both.  Iron doesn’t sharpen iron smoothly you know.
If the brethren have no confidence in you then examine to see if you have given them reason to have it?  A good banker does not give a large credit line to those with poor stewardship.  Now if such standards are placed on men in things pertaining to money and the customs of this world, how much more in things pertaining to eternal life and the kingdom of God! 
If they have lost confidence in you, whereas once they possessed it, then patiently wait and be faithful in the little—love and trust cannot be forced.  And if we must prove ourselves to men how much more to God!  It seems that you will always have before you, two choices.  In relation to everything written here you can prove yourself joyfully or sullenly.  Blessed are those who rejoice in these trials!
Another challenge is when others take you for being offended with your brother’s excellence in serving the Lord, when you are actually encouraged.  And being encouraged you strive to imitate and press towards the same mark by competing not against your brother, as they might think, but against yourself to obtain the prize out of love for your King.
Your brethren, including your bishop, pastor, evangelist or presbyter are not perfect as far as not making any incorrect judgments in their rebuke towards you.  Will you justify yourself?  Take offense?  Attempt to explain their error?  Or will you forgive them and have peace with yourself?  Besides, will going to them in person to tell them of your agitation kill the thing in you that needs to die?  Speaking of it to others only irritates it more.  There is a time and place to bring up "issues" but we must guard our hearts with all diligence.  Many times the beam in our own eye gets longer and longer as we behold the speck in our brother's eye.  The longer our own beam gets the longer it takes and the more that needs to be cut off.  We need to take those beams to the saw mill of honesty and humility and grind it to dust and pour the kerosene of fervent prayer for mercy upon that dust, and light it with a spark of charity.
There is no room for hatred in the family of God towards one another.  You cannot even be angry with your brother without a cause and if you are angry you must not let the sun go down before it gets resolved.  If you know your brother is angry or offended with you because of something you have done, then it is your responsibility to be reconciled to and make peace with him.  (Matthew 5:24)  It appears that Yeshua expects His disciples to have tender consciences, sensitive to the Holy Spirit, that feel, discern, or know their brother's need or if you have done anything to provoke, offend, or discourage him.
Another test is how you respond to what you think everyone else is thinking about you at any given time.  To be free from this stronghold one must choose, against what seems to be all good reason and evidence, to believe that they think well of you, so long as you have given them no reason to doubt.  This is crucial for your peace and to how you behave, because people often unwillingly demonstrate what they think others are thinking about them.  Sam may truly rejoice in his heart when the report of his brother’s success reaches his ears.  But if this glad news is declared openly before a multi-social setting, where he thinks that others think that he will be saddened, envious, or sour—Sam’s behavior may reflect these attitudes because of these very thoughts.  If Sam doesn’t gain the victory over his mind he may withdraw to seclusion.  But to do this very thing is selfish, disobedient, and proves his unwillingness to die.  Seclusion may be the tool that Satan uses to keep him in this bondage. 
Once you know who your brothers and sisters are, labor for them with prayer and fasting because they are facing similar temptations and are striving to walk the narrow way.  Search out their needs and for ways to meet those needs. 
If you are new to the brotherhood you may be wrongly judged as trying to appear righteous and humble:  Be righteous and humble anyways.  Love is willing to be falsely accused and to forgive the accusers.
What does it mean to be pure in heart?  It can mean one thing for one man and another to somebody else depending on what is inside of them.  Someone may feel no discouragement from seeing a brother flourishing in his faith and knowledge; but you may be more inclined to self pity.  Susan may be at peace when Sherry is recognized, but if Samantha is noticed or discussed, as she usually is, then Susan is no longer at peace with herself.  Distinguishing between genuine impurity of heart and merely a complex you have developed because of what you think others think about you may be very difficult and confusing.  At times, feelings you have in your heart may be the opposite of what you know they should be.  They are witness against you of certain impurity or it could simply be against the complex you have.  Perhaps the best thing to do is to not even judge yourself in this area, but commit all judgment to the Lord.  (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)  After all, our hearts are purified not by judging ourselves, but as the apostle said, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.”  (1 Peter 1:22)  God is in the business of fixing hearts, giving new hearts, and creating in people "Clean hearts."  If you keep finding yourself feeling things towards your brethren that should not be there, then you need to ask God for mercy and to fix your heart.  He will do it.  "Ask and ye shall receive."
Christian perfection is when you are cut, you bleed forgiveness.  You reflexively release your brother from all debt, and grudge has no place in your heart.  A man's love has cooled when it takes longer to get a release in your heart from that offense or grudge.  Ask God for mercy, He will help you.  Yeshua warned us saying, "And because iniquity will abound the love of many will wax cold."  (Matthew 24:12)

God's love prefers others before itself.  It wisely conceals its own poverty, that it may, without any burden, meet the needs of others before its own.  In fact, this love rejoices in this wisdom because the Father who is in secret sees what is happening.  The Christian searches for every precaution he could make to avoid being noticed.
Since love vanishes at the point you refuse to give of yourself, the Christian impoverishes himself by fasting and eating fewer meals seeking to not be noticed by human eyes.  He despises himself for succumbing to needless pleasures that in no way profit the soul or body.  In time, for some shorter and others longer, he becomes immediately ashamed for even considering to indulge in said pleasures.
The Christian is consistently kind to all.  Love suffers long and is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4); kind in that he makes himself useful to others, acting benevolently towards his brethren, neighbors, and enemies.  He is thinking of how his behavior and words affect others around him and is looking for opportunities to serve.  That is what the word kind means.  It is not merely a warm fuzzy sentiment conveyed with a smile in a God Bless You.
He loves his neighbor, as the scripture says, by, “Studying to be quiet,” (1 Thessalonians 4:11) that he may know how to conduct himself properly among all, as it becomes a Christian.  Instead of uttering all of his mind, he keeps his thoughts until afterwards; that is, until after he has studied what is best suited for the time, place, circumstances, or persons.  Love doth not behave itself unseemly.  (1 Corinthians 13:5)
At times you may notice a brother or sister continually working on a project for the Lord, and all the brothers and sisters agree that it is for the Lord.  But when you invest much weariness and toil in studying and others never regard it, in fact they think you are prideful, you may become provoked.  Also, another may be admired strongly for a particular spiritual strength they reflect and their weaknesses unnoticed. But if your strengths seem unappreciated, your thoughts and words unvalued, and you feel all that is recognized in you are your weaknesses—at least by the majority—you may become provoked in your heart.  However, love is not easily provoked, seeketh not her own, and thinks no evil.  (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)  In the end of all of this, it is between you and God.  Everything you do. 
It will be very hard for new brothers, especially if you were involved in any kind of preaching before you joined the faithful, because they do not know you, and if you were a preacher then they will really have their guard up.  They will probably place no value on anything you have to say and interrupt you to keep you silent, and misjudge your heart constantly as being proud and self-confident.  You may feel that they are only pretending to kiss you on the cheek, it may appear completely absent of affection or that they greet you reluctantly.  You may see a poor woman or visitor with a wife and children be treated as though they had been there for years, when the poor woman arrived shortly before you and the visitor they just met.  But it is often easier to trust a man with a wife and children than a lonely pilgrim, who is all by himself free of such responsibilities, and has a wild past.  But to be a Christian you must deny yourself this trust—of the brethren, bear the hurt without showing it, so as to be no greater burden than you already are, and strive to prefer them, trust them, and serve them joyfully and faithfully.  Remember that your Father sees in secret.  The many things said in this post is not for the weak, but for the strong.  Exercise these things and you will become stronger and liberated from many weaknesses.
At times you may feel it will be so much easier for you to leave and go do your own thing, where you need not to bear any hurt, earn any trust, and be constantly provoked when others are entreated, accepted, and trusted so readily and you are not.  You may feel that that they feel that they are doing you so many favors and taking such great risks to receive you into their fellowship, when you are purely innocent, or at least blind to any faults.  You may always treat them fairly, trustworthy, and try to think only well of them, but you repeatedly feel like you are some stranger among them because of certain things that take place.  Remind yourself that these are Jesus’ “mothers, brothers, and sisters,” because, though they are not perfect, they are doing the will of God.  And, if you think you are doing everything right, or are pleased with how you behave yourself, then you are blind.  It is much easier to be gentle and forgiving when we are aware of our own poverty and need.
Yes, they are to trust, hope, and believe; but be charitable towards them in these aforementioned respects without them ever knowing and you will be blessed in the end.  For some, the most difficult cross to bear is joining a new brotherhood; especially if you were involved in any kind of preaching, ministry, have no wife and children, a wild past, and no special skills, trade, or education to find a job and are in a constant struggle.
You may be offended when a brother or sister is so easily agitated by things you say and do while the same person is not the least bit bothered by anyone else, and the same never tells you why you irritate them but vainly imagines they are concealing their agitation well.  This person may be praised continuously for their good deeds and recognized for their labors of love, but this particular weakness seems altogether unnoticed because they are only weak towards you, that is, irritated by you.  Should you tell others?  Should you confront the person?  How will doing those two things help you or them at all?  This is an opportunity to be long-suffering towards them and to love someone who does not reciprocate the same love back!  Yeshua said, "Give to those who can never repay you."  Be patient and pray for and bless that person, and do not glory in their weakness or be happy, neither be grieved or irritated by their irritableness towards you but overcome those temptations with good.
If by now, you have found yourself many times in what has been written here then you obviously spend way too much time thinking about yourself.  Bury all of these restless idle thoughts and feelings at the bottom of the sea of forgetfulness.  Too much time thinking leaves little time to be loving and time cannot be replaced.  If you were to die while pondering these struggles all of the value you placed on understanding them would suddenly mean absolutely nothing to you.  He is a frustrated and impotent man who continually studies himself.
The friends of Christ keep His commandments, but that doesn’t mean they never stumble.  They do not have perfect knowledge of you and where knowledge is lacking there is plenty of opportunity for offenses and mistakes.  Blessed is the man who wants little from others.   
Christ will not recognize the name of he who “desires to”, but he who actually prefers his brethren.  Desire does not make men righteous; it is merely the kindling from which love may proceed, though it is very unreliable.  But many are deceived today thinking they are Christians because they desire to be so.  These often feel kind, merciful, and good, but when the cross comes all of their feelings are vanquished by it and desires choked.  Their comfort is not weariness, sleeplessness, weakness of bones, poor health, and a dutiful life, but desiring to be so. 
Jesus loved us by becoming poor for our sakes, that we, through His poverty might be rich.  (2 Corinthians 8:9)    
A disciple is a disciplined learner and committed follower of Christ.  He is in the same way as Christ.  He abides in Christ by walking even as He walked.  He takes no detours and finds no comfort in anything but the cross alone.  It is not comfortable for your flesh to be set on fire.  But when the cross comes, people often back away the same way they do when a camp fire gets too hot.  However, the disciple of Christ seeks to be perfectly trained that he may be like his Teacher; therefore he doesn’t shrink back from the cross, but bears it patiently. 
If you must prove yourself faithful—trustworthy—among men, then how much more must you prove to be faithful before God!

If you feel or think at times that "The Brethren" are lord of your life and not Jesus then fast and pray, and humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and ask Him to help you.  The Lord may call you to do something or be something and your brethren may not see it.  But be very cautious as to how you behave in this matter.  Satan's purpose is to steal, kill, and to destroy you.  He makes the most of every opportunity that you give him.  Ask God for wisdom, without doubting, and He will give it to you liberally.  In the multitude of counselors there is safety, but even the majority among brothers and sisters can be wrong at times because of a prevailing influence among the majority.  In the end, you must answer for everything you do, you will not blame your brethren for it.  This is all part of walking by faith.

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“Reason dictates that persons who are truly noble and who love wisdom will honor and love only what is true. They will refuse to follow traditional viewpoints if those viewpoints are worthless...Instead, a person who genuinely loves truth must choose to do and speak what is true, even if he is threatened with death...I have not come to flatter you by this written petition, nor to impress you by my words. I have come to simply beg that you do not pass judgment until you have made an accurate and thorough investigation. Your investigation must be free of prejudice, hearsay, and any desire to please the superstitious crowds. As for us, we are convinced that you can inflict no lasting evil on us. We can only do it to ourselves by proving to be wicked people. You can kill us—but you cannot harm us.” From Justin Martyr's first apology 150 A.D. Martyred A.D. 160