Love Among Brethren
FINALLY, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever
things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever
things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on
these things." Philippians 4:8.
The dealings of God with His people often appear mysterious. His ways are not our ways,
nor His thoughts our thoughts. Many times His way of dealing is so contrary to our plans
and expectations that we are amazed and confounded. We do not understand our perverse
natures; and often when we are gratifying self, following our own inclinations, we flatter
ourselves that we are carrying out the mind of God. And so we need to search the
Scriptures, and be much in prayer, that, according to His promise, the Lord may give us
Our work is aggressive. We are to be awake and discerning as to the devices of Satan,
and to press the triumphs of the cross of Christ. While Satan is planting his dark banner
among us, perhaps even in our families, we should not be indifferent and inactive. But
though we have an individual work and an individual responsibility before God, we are not
to follow our own independent judgement, regardless of the opinions and feelings of our
brethren; for this course would lead to disorder in the church. It is the duty of
ministers to respect the judgement of their brethren; but their relations to one another,
as well as the doctrines they teach, should be brought to the test of the law and the
testimony; then, if hearts are teachable, there will be no divisions among us. Some are
inclined to be disorderly, and are drifting away from the great landmarks of the faith;
but God is moving upon His ministers to be one in doctrine and in spirit.
Brethren sometimes associate together for years, and they think they can trust those
they know so well just as they would trust members of their own family. There is a freedom
and confidence in this association which could not exist between those not of the same
faith. This is very pleasant while mutual faith and brotherly love last; but let the
"accuser of the brethren" gain admittance to the heart of one of these men,
controlling the mind and the imagination, and jealousies are created, suspicion and envy
are harboured; and he who supposed himself secure in the love and friendship of his
brother, finds himself mistrusted and his motives misjudged. The false brother forgets his
own human frailties, forgets his obligation to think and speak no evil lest he dishonour
God and wound Christ in the person of His saints, and every defect that can be thought of
or imagined is commented upon unmercifully, and the character of a brother is represented
as dark and questionable.
There is a betrayal of sacred trust. The things spoken in brotherly confidence are
repeated and misrepresented; and every word, every action, however innocent and
well-meaning, is scrutinised by the cold, jealous criticism of those who were thought too
noble, too honourable to take the least advantage of friendly association or brotherly
trust. Hearts are closed to mercy, judgement, and the love of God; and the cold, sneering,
contemptuous spirit which Satan manifests toward his victim is revealed.
The Saviour of the world was treated thus, and we are exposed to the influence of the
same malicious spirit. The time has come when it is not safe to put confidence in a friend
or a brother.
As in the days of Christ, spies were on His track, so they are on ours now. If Satan
can employ professed believers to act as accusers of the brethren, he is greatly pleased;
for those who do this are just as truly serving him as was Judas when he betrayed Christ,
although they may be doing it ignorantly. Satan is no less active now than in Christ's
day, and those who lend themselves to do his work will represent his spirit.
Floating rumours are frequently the destroyers of unity among brethren. There are some
who watch with open mind and ears to catch flying scandal. They gather up little incidents
which may be trifling in themselves, but which are repeated and exaggerated until a man is
made an offender for a word. Their motto seems to be, "Report, and we will report
it." These talebearers are doing the devil's work with surprising fidelity, little
knowing how offensive their course is to God. If they would spend half the energy and zeal
that is given to this unholy work in examining their own hearts, they would find so much
to do to cleanse their souls from impurity that they would have no time or disposition to
criticise their brethren, and they would not fall under the power of this temptation. The
door of the mind should be closed against "they say" or "I have
heard." Why should we not, instead of allowing jealousy or evil surmising to come
into our hearts, go to our brethren, and, after frankly but kindly setting before them the
things we have heard detrimental to their character and influence, pray with and for them?
While we cannot love and fellowship with those who are the bitter enemies of Christ, we
should cultivate that spirit of meekness and love that characterised our Master--a love
that thinketh no evil and is not easily provoked.
This is a matter that rests between God and our own souls. We are living amid the
perils of the last days, and we should guard every avenue by which Satan can approach us
with his temptations. A fatal delusion seizes those who have had great light and precious
opportunities, but who have not walked in the light nor improved the opportunities God has
given them. Darkness comes upon them; they fail to make Christ their strength, and fall an
easy prey to the snares of the deceiver. A mere assent to the truth will never save a soul
from death. We must be sanctified through the truth; every defect of character must be
overcome, or it will overcome us, and become a controlling power for evil. Commence
without a moment's delay to root out every pernicious weed from the garden of the heart;
and, through the grace of Christ, allow no plants to flourish there but such as will bear
fruit unto eternal life.
Cultivate whatever in your character is in harmony with the character of Christ.
Cherish those things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report; but put
away whatever is unlike our Redeemer. Selfishness is cherished to an extent that few
realise; guard against it at all times and in all places. Do not excuse yourself in any
error. If you have one objectionable trait which you find it difficult to subdue, do not
talk of your weakness that others must bear with. Do not soothe your conscience with the
thought that you cannot overcome the peculiarities that deform your character, nor listen
to Satan's suggestion that they are not very grievous. There is no way by which you can be
saved in sin. Every soul that gains eternal life must be like Christ, "holy,
harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." Hebrews 7:26. The followers of Christ
must shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
Some seek to control their surroundings, thinking that if they are placed in favourable
positions, the bad traits in their character will not be developed. But God orders our
surroundings, and He will place us where we shall have test after test, to prove us and to
reveal what is in our hearts. Again and again we shall be brought into strait places, that
it may be known whether we are indeed crucified with Christ or full of self-love. How will
this proving, testing process end with each of us? The prince of darkness will put forth
all his power to retain us in his possession; but we have a Mighty Helper.
Self-love will prompt to a much better opinion of self than the Word of God will
warrant, for "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who
can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9. God's Word is the standard that we must all reach. It is
unsafe to consult feeling or trust to our own heart; for the wise man declares, "He
that trusteth in his own heart is a fool." Proverbs 28:26. And yet how prone we are
to trust this deceptive heart, and have confidence in our own goodness!
Church membership will not guarantee us heaven. We must abide in Christ, and His love
must abide in us. We must every day make advancement in the formation of symmetrical
character. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is
perfect." Matthew 5:48. As God is perfect in His sphere, so are we required to be
perfect in ours. There is a great work before us individually to reach this high standard,
and some have scarcely learned their A B Cs in the school of Christ. Our attainments will
be just in accordance with the efforts we make, our character just what we choose to make
it; for through the divine aid promised us, we can overcome. Jesus knows our frame;
"he remembereth that we are dust." Psalm 103:14. In pitying tenderness, He will
give us the help and strength we need.
Our souls have been purchased at an infinite cost, and we should value them according
to this standard. Let us shun the first approach to the world's heedless, irreverent, and
ungodly ways; but let us diligently cultivate the pure principles of the gospel of
Christ--the religion, not of self-esteem, but of love, meekness, and lowliness of heart.
Then we shall love our brethren, and esteem them better than ourselves. Our minds will not
dwell on the dark side of their character; we shall not feast on scandal and flying
reports. But "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever
things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever
things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise," we
shall "think on these things." Review and Herald, June 3, 1884.