Let us say to ourselves, softly and tenderly as such a name requires, "My brother . . . for whom Christ died." (See Rom. 14:15.) "My weak brother . . . for whom Christ died." (See 1 Cor. 8:11.) I may destroy him, I may cause him to perish; I who am to love him as Christ loves me, and be willing to lay down my life for him.
Am I my brother's keeper? Assuredly. And where is my brother? Where is he not? Do not I meet him daily, in the train or in the bus, in mart or street, in private houses and in public places? Do I watch for him, do I rejoice when I find him, do I love and care for him, do I long for the opportunity to minister to him as the Lord enables?
We shall not soon forget how in Edinburgh in 1902 a beloved Persian brother stood up before some three hundred of us assembled for prayer in that city, and spoke to us with tears and broken utterances on the words, "Even thou wast as one of them." (Obadiah 11.)
As he read, "But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress. Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity . . . as thou hast done it shall be done unto thee; thy reward shall return upon thine own head!" and as he owned how guilty he felt himself, surely many of us who heard felt very guilty too.
The sectarian spirit is so subtle, so universal, it is by no means easy to be clear of it. How readily do we think, and speak, of our fellowship, our company, applying these terms to a few only of God's children, and knowing nothing of really priestly service on behalf of all those for whom Christ died. If Christ died for them, how dear they must be to Christ; does not this cause the divine nature in us to yearn after them with deepest longings? For whatever there is of Christ in them, shall we not unfeignedly rejoice, delighted to recognise the common bonds we have together in Christ. If, on the other hand, we see any defect (and who has not many), shall we not lay ourselves out to do anything we can to help them, lovingly and graciously with tenderest care; not harshly or in a spirit of superiority, but in a spirit of meekness, considering ourselves lest we also be tempted.
How terrible it is that we can destroy, or cause to perish, our brother. Do not say, This does not mean this or that; think of what it does mean, rather than the reverse. Surely it means this much, if not more; a wasted life, that might have been fragrant with Christ — a missing of the mark which God desired for him, a grieving of the heart of the Christ who died for him. Who can measure all this?
And perhaps I caused it, without meaning it, for I was unheeding, and thought only of what pleased myself, so I did what I wished, and did not consider my brother for whom Christ died.
But this is not the Spirit of Christ. He would not offend His Jewish brethren though He Himself was free (Matt. 17:27); He would bear the storm Himself that His disciples might be spared (John 18:8). Blessed Lord, who is like Thee? Grant to us of Thy Spirit. Let us be willing to give up anything of our own, if we can by so doing help, or prevent from stumbling one for whom Christ died. "Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block, or an occasion to fall in another's way." (Rom. 14:13.) As we pass through this world, and behold its dainties, let us put a knife to our throats seeing we are men given to appetite (see Prov. 23:2), for surely we would not for our own gratification do aught that might stumble our brother.
Moreover, seeing that if one member of Christ suffer, all the members suffer with it: or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it: surely we should have the deepest care one for another that, at all events as far as in us lies, we should prevent schism in the body.
We cannot dissociate ourselves from the whole that bears Christ's name — we are part and parcel of it, and must share in the honour or the shame, the sorrow or the loss. If we were in a ship that was going on to shipwreck, could we save even ourselves by locking ourselves up in a little cabin and taking great pains to try and keep that in order? To whom God has committed much, from them He will ask the more; and what He has given, He has given for the blessing of all; and great is the loss in the present day, because so seldom is the truth taken by those, who have it, to those, who have it not.
Freely we have received, freely we must give, and everyone who has is a debtor to him that hath not.
God loved, and so God gave. He gave His all.
Christ loved, and this love brought Him down to a sin-defiled world to seek for those whom the Father gave Him out of the world.
Paul loved, so he was made all things to all men that by any means he might save some, though the more he loved the less he was loved.
Is this easy? No, it means a path far more narrow than the legal separatist ever dreams of, and no one can tread that path save he, who is gripped with the almighty constraining love of Christ, and being thus set free, is compelled by that same love to deny himself, to lose his life for Christ's sake, and to yearn after others in some little measure as his Master did before him.
Let our brother be whom he may, let him be called by whatsoever name, be he morally well or spiritually diseased, let us ever remember that he is our brother for whom Christ died, and as such is entitled to our deepest regard, our fondest love. If this be not, where is that proof that we are disciples of Christ?
Many and diverse are the conditions of our beloved brethren for whom Christ died; many are young and tender; many ignorant and ill-instructed; many sick and sorry, weary and heavy-laden; many scattered, driven away, lost and perishing; many lame, halting and stumbled. Oh! do not say they are wilful. Have we tried to help them, have we with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing with them in love, not in a patronizing way, or in a spirit of superiority, sought to heal and restore, to teach and to build up, that we may seek to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?
Mark the tenderness of that man of God, Paul: "We were gentle among you, even as a nurse [nursing mother] cherisheth her children: so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted to you . . our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. Ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged everyone of you, as a father doth his children. . . . When Timotheus came from you to us and brought us good tidings . . . brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: for now we live, if we stand fast in the Lord." Do read these two chapters (1 Thess. 2: and 3), they are so beautiful. Read 2 Cor. 7, and see his exultation in a single point of obedience by some of his naughty children, though much was still wrong. Read his address in Acts 20, his remarks in Phil. 3:18, 19, and mark his tears even for the enemies of the Cross. Are we contemptuously to dismiss the thought of our brother with the remark, "He is in system" (very few of us are out of system, if not something worse). They are our brethren for whom Christ died.
Oh! God, melt these stony hearts of ours. Cause us (while indeed we seek to be disciples in the sense of Luke 14, because we have tasted Thy love in Christ, in the great supper that Thou hast spread,) in our dealings with our brethren, who in spite of evident defect may still be more Christ-like than we are, to reflect some tiny portion of the tender grace which Christ shows every day to us, even, remembering that Christ died for them, and loves them as He loves us.