Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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Those around us who are walking in the love of God do us good in many ways. One of the chief ways they benefit us is to point out errors in ours lives that we do not see. In the Old Testament, God commanded His people not to let it pass, when they saw a neighbor commit a sin. In other words, God commanded His people to love as He loves. Solomon said, “Whom the Lord loves, He corrects, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12). To love as God loves, then, means to correct a brother when he errs, to remind him of the right way when he has wandered away from it. This holy love is what makes certain people around us so valuable.
But there is another group of people who are also among the most valuable to us. They are those who hate us with perfect hatred. God uses them as well as the first group to point out faults that we may be overlooking. These intend their criticism for evil, while the first group intends it for good, but the important thing is that it is done. Jesus warned us that evil men (including fallen brothers and sisters) would speak “all manner of evil” against us, but intermingled with their lies and slander is often a few legitimate criticisms. It is especially from believers who have turned from righteousness that we can receive the best criticism. Having known us, and having once been touched by God, they are able to point out faults in us that the world cannot perceive. These fallen brothers failed to offer in love our needed criticism while walking with us in the light, but God is so wonderful that He uses them anyway for our good, in spite of their malicious intent.
These two groups of people, those who love us as God loves us and those who hate us as Satan hates us, provide our most valuable help in the Lord, with blunt, insightful criticism. It is no wonder, then, that we are exhorted to love both those who are true and faithful, and those who are our enemies; they are all the most important people in our lives! My father taught us that you will never help anybody in the Lord if you fear hurting them. And if we fear losing a brother if we are honest with him concerning a fault, what good can we do him? Jesus is not like that. Once, in John 6, he even invited his disciples to leave him if they didn't want to hear what he said to them. Neither those who love us as God loves us nor those who hate us as Satan hates us will refrain from hurting us. The godly do not want to hurt us, but they love us enough to do it. The ungodly do want to hurt us, and they love themselves enough to do it. Either way, both groups are used by God for our good if we love Him.
But there is a third group.
The least valuable people in our lives are those around us who see our faults and remain silent. They are the real trouble-makers in the kingdom of God. They are the grudge-holders, the luke-warm, whose love is skin deep, who gossip to others about the faults they see in us instead of correcting us so that we can be healed. These foolish believers refuse to function as a healing part of the body by helping others to see their faults and to deal with them. They remain, sometimes for many years, among the body as useless, dead weight. Time usually reveals that they are silent about the errors they see in others because they are hiding from others some secret sins of their own.
Friends, if you are going to be a part of the body, then function! Live from the heart among the saints and be a benefit to others who are striving to do the will of God. One of the greatest compliments ever paid to a body of believers was paid to the saints in Rome. The apostle Paul described them as “able to admonish one another”. This means that (1) the saints in Rome had the wisdom to discern when a brother or sister was wandering off the right path, (2) they had enough of the love of God among themselves to point out error among themselves, and (3) they had the humility to receive criticism from one another when it was offered. For the body to function as Jesus wants it to, these three qualities must exist in it. Do you measure up?
Under the Old Testament law, God said that if we saw a brother sin and remained silent, we were, in fact, hating him. He said, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart! You shall by all means rebuke your neighbor, and not allow sin upon him. You shall not seek vengeance or bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself! I am the Lord!” (Lev. 19:17–18). Jesus loves us, and so he reproves us and convicts our hearts when we err, and he desires that each of us should love as he loves us. He told his disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12).
Do you love the saints around you as Jesus loves them? When you see fault, when you see something in a brother’s life that you know displeases the Lord, do you remain silent or whisper it to others instead of to him? If a brother harms you, do you hold a grudge? Do you seek revenge?
Let us determine today that we are going to function as we should, that we are going to love our brothers and sisters with the love of God while we have a chance. It will help us to do so if we remember that if we see a fault, it is only because Jesus has let us see what he sees so that we can cooperate with him in saving our brother. When we see a fault, Jesus is inviting us to do a good work. To be given the grace to see a fault in a brother is a golden opportunity; it is an open door to become a valuable part of the body of Christ, a healing part of the body, a fellow-worker with Christ, and to receive, in the end, the reward that is fitting for those who have served Christ well.