How Do We Handle Them?
Family relationships. Everyone has them. It may be our physical family, our work family, our neighborhood, or our church family. In ways, they are the same, but each has unique situations. And in various ways, we have problems in those relationships from time to time. Why is that so when families are to be a loving unit? The individuals within the families are to love and care for and support and encourage one another. But we see individuals each wanting to go their own way, sometimes not caring who they step on or hurt in order to get what they want. Even among our spiritual brothers and sisters there are problems. It shouldn't be that way if we all share the set-apart spirit, should it? But we all suffer disagreements, hurt feelings, gossip, misunderstandings and even persecution, with all sides feeling justified in their words and actions.
First of all, what is a family? How can it be defined?
Webster's Dictionary defines family as "the body of persons who live in one house and under one head; the parents and children alone; the children as distinguished from the parents; those who descend from one common progenitor; a tribe or race; kindred; lineage; line of ancestors; honourable descent."
In ancient times, family included more than just parents and children. It might include grandparents, aunts and uncles, all living in the same house. In ancient times, it also included dependents, such as all servants and slaves. Guests were also considered members of the household as long as they were present.
In the dictionary, the word is of Latin origin, " familia, a household, the slaves or servants of a house; from famulus, a servant, a slave."
Relationship is defined as "the state of being related by kindred, affinity, or other alliance; kinship."
And how does the church or the assembly fit into this?
From the Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, by Herbert Lockyer, Sr., editor, page 377 -
"Family - Biblical writers used other analogies from the family to describe various aspects of the gospel. To be brought into God's family, the believer must be 'born from above' or 'born again' (John 3:3, 5). Because a person has God as his Father, he must realize that other believers are his 'fathers,' 'mothers,' 'brothers,' and 'sisters' (I Tim. 5:1-2). The body of believers known as the church are also referred to as the 'household of God' (Eph. 2:19) and the 'household of faith' (Gal. 6:10). In addition, the concepts of adoption and inheritance are used to describe the position of believers in God's family (Gal. 4:5; I Pet. 1:4)."
From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume 1, page 325 -
"Brother - kin by birth, from the same parents or parent. Used extensively in the OT and NT of other relations and relationships, and expanding under Christ's teaching to include the universal brotherhood of man."
From the Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, page 194 -
"Brother - the male offspring of one's parents or of one's father or mother. The term brother was also used in the early church to refer to the love of Christian believers for one another (Acts 9:17)."
"Brotherly love - the love of brothers (or sisters) for each other; the love of fellow Christians for one another, all being children of the same Father in a special sense. Occasionally the New Testament uses the word brother to refer simply to another human being, whether a Christian or not (Matt. 25:40), or to one's fellow countryman (Rom. 9:3). Usually, however, it is used of a fellow believer in Christ. This is true of all places where the concept of brotherly love, or brotherly kindness appears.
"Brotherly love is to be the badge, or hallmark of a Christian (John 13:35)."
All of us are part of a physical family, whether it be large or small. Some families are tight-knit and loving. Others are separated by distance. They can still be close in heart or they can be distant in the relationship as well. But there are also families that are dysfunctional. We hear a lot about those today. Those problems they face are affecting the children as they grow up and the relationships that they go on to establish.
One of the main characteristics that we assign to families is love. There should be love between man and wife. They should be two individuals, but one. Echad as the Hebrew says, as Elohim is echad - two members, Yahweh and Yahshua, but one unit; one family. Husband and wife are to be two persons, working as one unit. They are each part of the whole.
"So, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies - he loving his wife loves himself."
"However, you also, everyone, let each love his wife as himself, and the wife, that she fears the husband."
That doesn't mean fear as we think of being afraid of something. She is to realize that he is the head of the house and that he is responsible for the family to Yahweh and respect him as such. It doesn't say here that she is to love him, but love is a reciprocal attribute. She receives it from the husband and she returns it to him. The more it is given, the more it grows. Love multiplies as people are added, not diminished.
"Wives, subject yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Master."
The husband is to love his wife and family and supply their needs, to support them. The mother is there to support the husband emotionally, to care for the home and the children. Both parents are to love the children and have a direct hand in their upbringing, done gently, with love and teaching. The children, in turn are to honor and respect their parents and to love them. The average person understands that, even though that may not be the way his particular family is.
But what about within the church or the assembly? Is love to be found there?
"I give a new commandment to you, that you should love one another, according as I loved you, you should also love one another.
"By this all shall know that you are My disciples, if you have love among one another."
I Peter 1:22
"Purifying your souls in the obedience of the truth through the Spirit to unpretended brotherly love, love one another fervently out of a pure heart."
It isn't just a love that is stated. It must go deeper. It must be real. And how much do we need to love one another?
"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you.
"Greater love than this has no one, that anyone should lay down his soul for his friends."
We should be willing to give of our time, our energy, our resources - and even our lives, if necessary.
How do we get this love? Where does it come from? Do we work it up from within? Can we build it up with music or exhortations from a chanting preacher or worship service?
"And the hope does not put us to shame, because the love of Yahweh has been poured out in our hearts through the Set-Apart Spirit given to us."
Yahweh wants us to respect one another. We are to treat each other with honor, gently and lovingly, putting others before ourselves. Caring for others and seeing that their needs are met before our own. Such as at potlucks - allowing the elderly or the handicapped or those with small children to go first in line. Not putting ourselves at the head of the line each time, to be sure we get what we want. Maybe even helping the ones with small children by holding the child or filling the plate for the parent holding the child. Seeing that an older person has a comfortable seat where they can see and hear. Giving someone a ride to or from services. Making sure each person has a songbook or a bulletin; whatever is needed at the time.
And no, having respect for another person does not contradict scripture where it says that we are not to have respect of persons. That is not exactly the same thing. The word in these verses is sometimes translated "partiality".
James 1:9 in the Interlinear Bible, says,
"But if you have partiality to persons, you work sin, having been found guilty as transgressors by the law."
"And opening his mouth, Peter said, truly I see that Yahweh is not an accepter of persons."
In that scripture, the King James says that Yahweh is no respecter of persons. He sees all persons as equal. He wants as many sons and daughters as He can have in His kingdom. He cares deeply about everyone.
II Peter 3:9
"Yahweh is not slow as to the promise, as some deem slowness, but is long-suffering toward us, not having purposed any of us to perish, but all of us to come to repentance."
Families can suffer from all sorts of problems: lack of love, poverty, selfishness, illness, problems with jobs, unfaithful mates, sibling rivalry, etc. The list is endless and I'm sure each person can fill in the blanks of the problems they face.
But what about the church? What are the problems there? They are many as well. It can include lack of understanding, lack of growth, ego, pride, church government (or lack thereof), who does or does not speak, busybodies, etc., etc.
These things start rather small, often from rumors, little whispers and gossip. They grow and take on a life all their own.
"A whisperer's words are like burns, and they descend into the chambers of the heart."
"He who covers a transgression seeks love; but he who repeats a matter separates friends."
"A perverse man causes strife; and a whisperer separates close friends."
All of this starts working on a family and comments grow. Contentions escalate and barbs are heard.
"Hatred stirs up fights; but love covers all transgressions."
"He who hates dissembles with his lips, and in his inner being he lays up deceit."
Source of Problems
So where do the problems come from? What makes a family (physical or spiritual) dysfunctional? Is it us? Our greed? Our insecurities? Someone else? Outside influence? Satan? James had an answer. Just keep in mind he was not writing to outsiders, but to those who knew about Yahweh.
"From where do wars and fightings among you come? Is it not from this, from your lusts warring in your members?
"You desire and do not have; you murder, and are jealous, and are not able to obtain; you fight and you war, and you do not have, because you do not ask Yahweh.
"You ask, and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order that you may spend on your lusts."
What? Can you imagine that? Wars and murders? Within the assembly? And these are Yahweh's people? That doesn't sound right, does it?
In the thirty-seven years I have followed Yahweh's leading, I've never known of actual war or murder. But I have witnessed and been affected by hatred, jealousy, anger, disagreements and splits, both large and small.
Once the whispers start, additional people may become involved. There may be hidden agendas. It would be easy at that time for someone to take advantage of the situation, work both sides and assist things in getting out of hand. It may include long discussions over words and what was meant.
II Timothy 2:14
"Remind them of these things, solemnly testifying before Yahweh not to dispute about words for nothing useful, to the throwing down of those hearing."
"But keep back from foolish questionings, and genealogies, and arguments, and quarrels of law, for they are unprofitable and vain."
II Timothy 2:23
"But refuse the foolish and uninstructed questions knowing that they generate quarrels."
So what does all this bring about? Where does it lead?
"For where jealousy and contention are, there is confusion and every foul deed."
I Timothy 6:3-5
"If anyone teaches differently, and does not consent to sound words, those of our Master Yahshua Messiah, and the teaching according to godliness.
"He has been puffed up, understanding nothing, but is sick concerning doubts and arguments, out of which comes envy, strife, evil speakings, evil suspicions.
"Meddlings, of men whose mind has been corrupted and deprived of the truth, supposing gain to be godliness; withdraw from such persons."
Sometimes these situations in the assembly start innocently enough. Just a small comment made in a corner somewhere. But they can also arise from selfishness, a desire to appear more righteous, by passing on rumors, by imputing motives or even revenge. It will grow all out of proportion and finally explode. We each have to make judgments on what is going on around us.
But wait a minute! "The Bible says we aren't supposed to judge." That is what is often thrown out in a "holier-than- thou" manner. But is that totally true?
"Do not judge, that you may not be judged.
"For with whatever judgments you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured again to you."
Notice that it does not say that you should not judge because it is against the law of Yahweh. The reason is for yourself - so you won't be judged.
What does "judge" mean in this context? The Greek word is Strong's #2919 krino, meaning to distinguish, to decide between or to judge. But the word also implies to try, condemn or punish. That is the part of judgment that is reserved for Yahweh.
One reason we need to be careful how we judge is that it will reflect on how Yahweh will judge us. If we are exceptionally critical of someone, then He will apply it to us in the same critical manner. If we set up, in our minds, a standard for our brother to live up to, we'd better be sure we meet that standard first before we even glance at others.
But Matthew continues.
"But beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inside they are plundering wolves.
"From their fruits you shall know them. Do they gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?
"So every good tree produces good fruits; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit.
"A good tree cannot produce evil fruits, nor a corrupt tree produce good fruits.
"Every tree not producing good fruit is cut out and thrown into the fire.
"Then surely from their fruits shall you know them."
But even that requires a certain amount of judging, doesn't it? To determine whether the fruits are good or bad? To determine if a prophet is true or false?
Think about it. If you visit an assembly, looking for a place to fellowship on a regular basis, don't you make a judgment? You decide whether or not you will return there. If you decide to place someone into a job or responsibility, doesn't it require judgment? Or if you vote on something? We constantly make judgments of some sort on a daily basis.
"Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. He that speaks against a brother, and is judging a brother, he speaks against law, and judges law. But if you judge law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge.
"One is the lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you who judges another?"
This is another scripture people use in confrontations. It is often said with a "who do you think you are" attitude. But what is the context? Not simply judging, but your relationship with your brother. It is about speaking evil of one another.
Now go back and look. Who made the statement in Matthew 7 about not judging? It was Yahshua. But the following are also His words. Is there a contradiction?
"Do not judge according to sight, but judge righteous judgment."
Here He is saying that we are to judge. But He is saying that we shouldn't "judge a book by its cover." He says that there is a righteous way to judge.
Learning From Judging
Why is judgment necessary at all? It's for us to practice for what is to come. We need to learn, starting with smaller matters to be prepared for the job that is ahead of us.
I Corinthians 6:1-4
"Does any of you having a matter against another dare to be judged before the unjust, and not before the saints?
"Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy of small judgments?
"Or do you not know that we shall judge angels, not to speak of this life?
"If, then, you truly have judgments of this life, those being least esteemed in the church, you sit these."
Think about that! What a challenge! And we can't handle the little things today? We need to spend more time looking at things through Yahweh's Word. That should be our standard on everything, not our human feelings and logic.
We also need to remember what it was like when we first came into the truth. We were totally new to this and felt at times like a fish out of water. Did people make judgments against you then, not realizing you simply didn't understand as much as they? Recall that feeling and think about it before judging what someone else is doing. What would it feel like to be in their shoes once again? Give a chance for explanations before jumping to conclusions. It should be a lesson learned that we remember.
When problems do arise, Matthew 18 is always mentioned. Let's look at it closely, though. We need to use the whole chapter and not just the few verses that are usually quoted. Look at it and read the entire chapter. Then we will look at those few verses that people use when their feelings have been hurt or they are upset.
Matthew 18:6, in the King James Versions says,
"But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in men, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Now let's look at part of that same verse in the Interlinear Bible, translated word for word out of the Greek.
"But whoever causes one of these little ones believing in me to offend…"
What? That is not offending someone - that is causing them to offend. That's something quite different.
And "offend" means what? Hurt feelings? Injured pride? It is Strong's #4624 skandalilzo, meaning to entrap, i.e. trip up; entice to sin. Causing someone to sin is something else -- it involves more than just hurt feelings.
From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, volume 3, page 2180 --
"For skandalizo, translated in AV 'offend,' 'offence,' RV gives 'cause to stumble,' 'stumbling-block,' etc; thus, Matt. 5:29, 'if thy right eye causeth thee to stumble,' i.e. 'is an occasion for thy falling into sin'; Matt. 16:23, 'Thou art a stumbling-block unto me,' an occasion of turning aside from the right path; in Matt. 26:31,33 bis, 'offended' is retained, m33 bis, 'Gr caused to stumble' (same word in ver 31); Mark 9:42, 'whosoever shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble,' to fall away from the faith, or fall into sin."
From volume 4, page 2867 -
"Stumbling-block - the literal meaning of the Heb words - an object which causes one to stumble or fall -appears in such passages as Lev. 19:14 'Thou shalt not …. Put a stumbling-block (mikshol) before the blind' (cf. Jer. 6:21). But the expression is ordinarily figurative, referring to that which causes material ruin or spiritual downfall, which were closely connected in OT thought (Psa. 119:165; Ezk. 21:15). The things that lead astray are silver and gold (Ezk. 7:19); idols (Ezk 14:3; Zeph. 1:3, etc).
"One of the NT words, skandalon, lit. means the stick of a trap to which the bait is attached, and which when touched springs the trap. Figuratively either word refers to a thing or a person that leads one to fall into error, into sin or into destruction."
From the Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, Sr., ed., pages 781-872 -
"Offense - a word with two distinct meanings in the Bible: 1. That which prompts a person to bristle with indignation or disgust. This type of offense may in fact be God, according to its usage in the Bible. The apostle spoke of 'the offense of the cross' (Gal. 5:11). The Jews were offended because faith without Jewish legal observances was offered as the only means of salvation. 2. Offense also refers to those things which cause a person to do something against his conscience. This type of offense may be from Satan or from men. Its effect is to entice a person to sin (Matt. 5:29; 17:23; 18:6-9). It is this kind of offense which can be produced by the 'grey' areas of the Christian life - those practices which are right for some but wrong for others (Rom. 14:13; I Cor. 8:13)."
Now with that definition, verse 8 makes a lot more sense.
"And if your hand or your foot offends you, cut it off and throw it from you. It is good for you to enter into life lame or maimed, than having two hands or two feet to be thrown into the everlasting fire."
I always wondered how cutting those off could help if you had been offended. But with the understanding of the words, how could the hand or the foot have hurt your feelings? Now it makes sense if you look at it from the point of view of them having a part in the actions of your sins and aiding you in doing something you knew to be wrong.
Now let's look at the most-quoted verses of Matthew 18.
"But if your brother sins against you, go and reprove him between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
"But if he does not hear, take one or two more with you, so that on the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand.
"But if he fails to hear them, tell it to the church. And if he also fails to hear the church, let him be to you as the nations and the tax collector."
In verse 15, the word sin or trespass is Strong's #264 - hamartano. It means to fail to attain or maintain a set standard; to do actual or moral wrong; to miss the mark; to violate the will of Yahweh. Whose standard? Whose mark? Certainly Yahweh's, not rules set up by some man.
Does this mean you can "call someone on the carpet" for the slightest of things? Can you press the issue just for two differing opinions? Carried to that extent, it would eventually nullify the value of this process.
It says to go to your brother alone - just the two of you. But how are you to go? What type of approach should you use? In a confrontational manner, demanding an explanation for actions or words? Or in a humble, beseeching frame of mind seeking understanding and forgiveness? In an effort to make sure you did not misunderstand the brother? Giving the benefit of the doubt first? The attitude in which you confront your brother may well determine the outcome of the situation.
What does "but if he will not hear" mean? To hear your complaints and demands for satisfaction? Or to hear your plea through Yahweh's Word? To hear what Yahweh - not you - says about the situation? After all, it's referring to transgression of Yahweh's laws, not yours.
If the situation is not resolved, or if the transgressions are repeated, you can try again, taking one or two others with you as witnesses. Once again, the attitude and manner of the approach will have a great bearing on the outcome. If the two or three appear to be "ganging up" or attacking the brother you claim to be trying to gain, the brother will become defensive and the wedge will be driven even deeper.
Verse 17 continues with what to do if the second attempt fails. But consider this step very carefully. It is a serious one. Are you sincerely trying to help a brother through a hard time? To turn him from the wrong path and back to Yahweh? Or are you simply looking for an apology for hurt feelings? Is the sin serious enough to bar a brother from Yahweh's assembly and fellowship? You'd better be sure of what you're doing here. Because Yahweh will judge you by the same standards you are imposing here.
One point to keep in mind when you talk about being offended ---
"Great peace is to those who love your law, and there is no stumbling block to them."
In the King James, this same verse says, "Great peace have they which love your law, and nothing shall offend them." They don't allow stumbling blocks to interfere with their devotion to Yahweh's law.
In situations where approaching a brother is considered, we need to be sure it is not motivated by revenge or retaliation. That is not the way to use Yahweh's scriptures - as a club to bring someone into line or into submission. Revenge is His alone. We have no right to usurp that.
"Vengeance and retribution belongs to me; in due time their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is near; and the things prepared are hurrying for them."
"Repay no one evil for evil; providing right things before all men.
"If possible, as far as is in you, seeking peace with all men.
"Not avenging yourselves, beloved, but giving place to wrath - for it has been written, vengeance is mine, I will repay, says Yahweh.
"Then if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give drink to him; for doing this you will heap coals of fire on his head.
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome the evil with the good."
If someone does wrong to you, do good to him. Don't try to pay back in kind. It only escalates the situation. By your example of doing good, you may be able to reach him.
"For we know him who has said, vengeance belongs to me; I will repay says Yahweh; and again, Yahweh will judge his people."
Now continue reading in Matthew 18. Don't stop with verse 17. It relates the parable of the unmerciful servant. He was forgiven a large debt, but refused to forgive another a smaller debt. He was delivered to the tormentors.
"So my heavenly father will do to you unless each of you from your hearts forgive his brother their offenses."
Notice the words "from your hearts." Just accepting an apology superficially or off-handedly is not enough. It must go deeper than that. It must be sincere.
The word "offenses" here at the end of the chapter is a different word. The one here is Strong's #3900, paraptoma, meaning a side-slip (lapse or deviation), i.e. (unintentional) error or (willful) transgression.
If you are upset by or hurt by a brother, it appears that you are obligated to forgive - for your own good.
From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, volume 2, page 1133 -
"Christ taught that forgiveness is a duty. No limit can be set to the extent of forgiveness (Lu. 17:4) and it must be granted without reserve. Jesus will not admit that there is any wrong so gross nor so often repeated that it is beyond forgiveness. To Him an unforgiving spirit is one of the most heinous of sins. This is the offence which God will not forgive (Matt. 18:34-35).
"Jesus recognized that there are conditions to be fulfilled before forgiveness can be granted. Forgiveness is part of a mutual relationship; the other part is the repentance of the offender. God does not forgive without repentance, nor is it required of man. The effect of forgiveness is to restore to its former state the relationship which was broken by sin. Such a restoration requires the co-operation of both parties. There must be both a granting and an acceptance of the forgiveness. Sincere, deep-felt sorrow for the wrong which works repentance ( II Cor. 7:10) is the condition of mind which insures the acceptance of the forgiveness.
"It is not to be supposed, however, that failure to repent upon the part of the offender releases the offended from all obligation to extend forgiveness. Without the repentance of the one who has wronged him he can have a forgiving state of mind.
"The offended is to go even farther and is to seek to bring the wrongdoer to repentance. He is to carry his pursuit to the point of making every reasonable effort to win the wrongdoer, and only when he has exhausted every effort may he abandon it. The object is the gaining of his brother. Only when this is evidently unattainable is all effort to cease.
"God's forgiveness is conditional upon man's forgiveness of the wrongs done him, not because God forgives grudgingly but because forgiveness alone indicates that disposition of mind which will humbly accept the Divine pardon."
"For if you forgive men their offenses, your heavenly father will also forgive you.
"But if you will not forgive men their offenses, neither will your father forgive your offenses."
"And when you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive it, so that your Father in heaven may also forgive your sins.
"But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your sins."
Looks like forgiveness is pretty important - for you. Are you given an "out" if you don't like the way he apologizes? Or if you think he is not sincere? I don't think so.
The word "forgive" used here is Strong's #863, aphiem. It means to send forth, to let go, to leave or abandon. In the vernacular - "forget it", or "let it go", or "forgive and forget".
From the Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, Sr., ed., page 393 -
"Forgiveness - God's forgiveness of us demands that we forgive others, because grace brings responsibility and obligation (Matt. 18:23-25; Luke 6:37). Jesus placed no limits on the extent to which Christians are to forgive their fellowmen (Matt. 18:22, 35; Luke 17:4). A forgiving spirit shows that one is a true follower of Christ (Matt. 5:42-48; Mark 11:25)."
"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those cursing you; do well to those hating you, and pray for those abusing and persecuting you."
Or as we say today - do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
"You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh."
"But I say to you, everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be liable to the judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raca, shall be liable to the Sanhedrin; but whoever says, Fool, shall be liable to be thrown into the fire of hell.
"Therefore, if you offer your gift on the altar, and remember there that your brother has something against you.
"Leave your gift there before the altar, and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then coming, offer your gift."
II Corinthians 5:18-20
"And all things are of Yahweh, who reconciled us to Himself through Yahshua Messiah, and giving to us the ministry of reconciliation.
"Whereas Yahweh was in Messiah reconciling the world to Himself, not charging their trespasses to them, and putting the word of reconciliation in us.
"Therefore, on behalf of Messiah, we are ambassadors, as Yahweh is exhorting through us, we beseech on behalf of Messiah. Be reconciled to Yahweh."
Forgiveness and reconciliation are things we all need. They can bring peace and healing to our lives. But what if the brother is not receptive? What if he will not forgive? Nor matter what you do or say, you cannot please or satisfy him. Then what? Then the situation must be left with Yahweh. But check the situation over. Be sure you are not in the wrong as well. Examine your attitude and motivation as well.
"Then put on as the elect of Yahweh, holy and beloved, tender feelings of compassions, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering.
"Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, if any has a complaint against anyone; even as Messiah forgave you, so also should you.
"And above all these, add love, which is the bond of perfectness.
"And let the peace of Yahweh rule in your hearts, to which you also were called in one body, and be thankful."
"Let all bitterness, and anger, and wrath, and tumult and evil speaking be put away from you, along with all evil things.
"And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, having forgiven one another, even as also Yahweh forgave you in Messiah."
Now suppose your brother is upset with you based on what others have told him. What did they witness? Did they honestly see what you did or hear what you said? Did they witness all the actions? Did they eavesdrop and hear all or only part of the conversation? Or is a case being built on bits and pieces taken out of context? Or are they "interpreting" what you said? Putting in implications and intentions and motives that you did not have?
What about the witnesses themselves? Are they truly trustworthy? Or are they being busybodies? Could they have a hidden agenda? All things need to be taken into consideration when someone comes to you and says, "Guess what I saw!" or "You'll never believe what he said!" The way things are reported can change the entire meaning of conversations, depending on the tone of voice, attitude and such when it is repeated. Think carefully before you accuse or condemn based on hearsay. There are people who enjoy causing trouble or "stirring the pot." Yahweh has nothing good to say about false witnesses. They are mentioned in a list of seven things He hates.
"A false witness who breathes lies; and he who causes strife among brothers."
"Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, or deceive with your lips.
"Do not say to him, I will do to him as he has done to me; I will repay each according to his work."
"A faithful witness will not lie; but a false witness breathes lies."
"A man who gives false witness against his neighbor is a maul, and a sword and a sharp arrow."
From The Ten Commandments, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Rabbi Stewart Vogel, page 291-292 -
"Lying for the purposes of false flattery is wrong. Flattery goes wrong when it sacrifices truth and dignity in order to obtain some material advantage - be it objects, money, affection, relationship, or favors. Flattery actually becomes an act of stealing, for which, instead of stealth and weapons, false words of approval are the tools of the theft".
From page 271 -
"In some regards, lying is more serious than stealing. The thief takes material things, while the liar creates injustice and misery. The liar also kills himself spiritually by diminishing in himself the divine glow that raised him above the rest of the animal kingdom through acknowledging his creation as being for the benefit of his neighbor and God."
Just imagine what false witnesses can do. People have even been put to death based on their testimony.
"And the chief priests and the elders and the whole Sanhedrin looked for false testimony against Yahshua, so that they might put him to death.
"And not any were found, even though there were many false witnesses coming forward, they did not find any; but at last two false witnesses came up."
"They will put you out of the synagogue, but an hour is coming that everyone killing you will think to bear a service before Yahweh."
Keep in mind - Yahshua is talking about "religious" people. Not the world in general!
In the law, what was the punishment for a false witness?
"If a vicious witness rises up against any man to charge apostasy against him.
"Then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before Yahweh, before the priests and the judges who shall be in those days.
"And the judges shall carefully investigate. And, behold, if the witness is a false witness, and he has testified falsely against his brother.
"Then you shall do to him as he plotted to do to his brother. And you shall put away the evil from among you."
Minding Your Business
It is amazing how much trouble could be eliminated if people would often do as suggested by Dear Abby and "MYOB" or "Mind Your Own Business". Would you believe, scripture can even support that concept?
I Thessalonians 4:11
"And try earnestly to be quiet, and to do your own things, and to work with your own hands, as we enjoined you."
II Thessalonians 3:11
"For we hear some are walking in a disorderly way among you, not working at all, but being busybodies."
I Peter 4:15
"For do not let any of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil doer, or as a meddler in the affairs of others."
But too often we jump in with both feet. When we only make things worse, the most often heard comment may be "But I was only trying to help." We may see others having difficulties and step up to help out, even when they have not asked for it. Maybe they have even indicated that they don't require the help - they will work it out, with Yahweh's help. But no, we insist that we must help our brother.
Even though we may not remember what was said, our words may someday come back to haunt us.
"Offspring of vipers, how can you being evil speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
"The good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things; and the evil man out of the evil treasures puts forth evil things.
"But I say to you, that every idle word, whatever men may speak, they shall give account of it in judgment day.
"For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
We need to think before we speak. If necessary, do the proverbial counting to ten.
"So that, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath."
If you are upset with your brother, how do you treat his name? Does it become a by-word? "Oh, that's just so-and-so." Is the whole family, though innocent parties, put down simply because they happen to bear the same name?
"Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they cut you off, and will reproach you, and will cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man.
"Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy; for, behold, your reward is much in heaven for their fathers did according to these things to the prophets."
From Webster's Columbia Concise Dictionary, page 479 -
"Name - that by which a person or thing is called or designated, in distinction from other persons or things; appellation; reputation; character; renown; fame; eminence."
From The Oxford Companion to the Bible, edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, page 545 -
Under "Significance of names" we find, "Throughout the Bible, names are full of meaning. Scholars have long recognized that both for ancient Israel and the ancient Near East as well as for early Judaism and Christianity, the name of a person, place, or things was somehow connected to and descriptive of its essence and/or personality. Thus names of individuals expressed their personality and status or nature."
From The Ten Commandments, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Rabbi Stewart Vogel, page 63 -
"Names are generally used to define things. The difference between a microscope and a telescope is the difference between the two polarities of the infinitely small and the infinitely huge. You personally recognize that all of what you are cannot be contained in a simple description or specific name. When someone mistakes you for someone else, there is an uncomfortable sense of losing importance, or that all you have done and have become becomes discounted or lost. Moreover, when someone has or uses your same name, you feel threatened or diminished. Even though your name was the choice of your parents, somehow it feels very personal - as though it is shorthand for 'you'.
From page 201 -
"Our reputation is one of our most precious possessions. We work hard to achieve a good one. Character assassination through gossip or other means kills the good name that someone has worked hard for."
From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, volume 3, page 2112 -
"Name - a 'name' is that by which a person, place of thing is marked and known. In Scripture, names were generally descriptive of the person, of his position, of some circumstance affecting him, hope entertained concerning him, etc., so that 'the name' often came to stand for the person.
"Besides designating persons, the name also stands for fame, renown, reputation, character gained or expressed."
From page 1484 -
"Integrity - The translation of tom, 'simplicity,' 'soundness,' 'completeness,' rendered also 'upright,' 'perfection.'
"….it seems to carry the meaning of simplicity, or sincerity of heart and intention, truthfulness, uprightness.
"The word 'integrity' does not occur in the NT, but its equivalents may be seen in 'sincerity,' 'truth,' the 'pure heart,' the 'single eye,' etc. In the above sense of simplicity of intention it is equivalent to being honest, sincere, genuine, and is fundamental to true character."
"The just one walks in his integrity; blessed are his sons after him."
From Webster's Columbia Concise Dictionary, page 383 -
"Integrity - The state of being entire or complete; entireness; a genuine or unimpaired state; honesty; uprightness in mutual dealings."
Yahweh's name is very important. We can't equate our name to His, by any means. But it is important. Names carry meanings and they are important to Yahweh.
"A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches; rather than silver or gold, favor is better."
From Matthew Henry's Commentary, volume 3, page 753 -
"Proverbs 22:1 - Here are two things which are more valuable and which we should covet more than great riches: 1) - To be well spoken of: A name (that is, a good name, a name for good things with God and good people) is rather to be chosen than great riches; that is, we should be more careful to do that by which we may get and keep a good name than that by which we may raise and increase a great estate. Great riches bring great cares with them, expose men to danger, and add no real value to a man. A fool and a knave may have great riches, but a good name makes a man easy and safe, supposes a man wise and honest, redounds to the glory of God, and gives a man a greater opportunity of doing good. By great riches we may relieve the bodily wants of others, but by a good name we may recommend religion to them. 2) - To be well beloved, to have an interest in the esteem and affections of all about us; this is better than silver and gold. Christ has neither silver nor gold, but he grew in favour with God and man, Luke 2:52. This should teach us to look with a holy contempt upon the wealth of this world, not to set our hearts upon that, but with all possible care to think of those things that are lovely and of good report, Phil. 4:8."
"A good name is better than good ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth."
From Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, volume 3, page 528 -
"Ecclesiastes 7:1 - A good name - character; a godly mind and life; not mere reputation with man, but what a man is in the eyes of God, with whom the name and reality are one thing (Isa. 9:6). This alone is 'good' whilst all else is 'vanity,' when made the chief end."
From Matthew Henry's Commentary, volume 3, page 836 -
"Ecclesiastes 7:1 - The honour of virtue is really more valuable and desirable than all the wealth and pleasure in this world.
"A good name is better than all riches (Prov. 21:1), that is, a name for wisdom and goodness with those that are wise and good - the memory of the just; this is a good that will bring a more grateful pleasure to the mind, will give a man a larger opportunity of usefulness, and will go further, and last longer, than the most precious box of ointment."
In the beginning of this paper, I said I had never heard of any murders in the assembly. But what about the motive behind slander or character assassination? Is destroying the name and reputation of a brother the same attitude? Just a difference in how far things are carried? Definitely something to think about before we start with the rumors and whispers.
From The Ten Commandments, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Rabbi Stewart Vogel, page 196 -
"Gossip has the potential to destroy people's lives. Gossip is therefore like murder. Even listening to gossip is like standing idly by while your neighbor is murdered.
"By rabbinical interpretation, the Sixth Commandment includes not just the literal taking of a life. According to rabbinic sages, publicly humiliating someone is figuratively akin to murder."
Our names are important to Yahshua, the head shepherd. He is aware of the names of those who follow Him. Those names identify them to Him.
"The doorkeeper opens to him, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.
"I am the good shepherd, and I know those that are mine; and I am known by the ones that are mine."
At the end time, how important is a person's name?
"The one who has an ear, hear what the spirit says to the churches: to the one overcoming, I will give him to eat from the hidden manna; and I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name having been written, which no one knows except the one receiving it."
"The one overcoming, this one shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not at all blot his name out of the book of life; and I will acknowledge his name before my Father, and before his angels."
How many are ready to face this?
"And I saw the dead, the small and the great, standing before Yahweh; and scrolls were opened; and another scroll was opened, which is the scroll of life; and the dead were judged out of the things written in the scrolls, according to their works.
"And if anyone was not found having been written in the scroll of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
How important is your name? Is it written there?
What To Do?
There is plenty for us to do. We need to learn these lessons and how to apply them correctly in our homes and in our congregations. After all, if we are to help teach the world, don't we need to understand first? We can show them more by example than we can ever show them in words or in the quoting of scriptures. We may never agree on every little detail of how we think things should be done. But does it really matter, if it is done in line with Yahweh's law? If it fulfills His Word and serves others, does it matter who does it? Or when? Or how?
I Corinthians 12:18
"But now Yahweh set the members, each one of them, in the body, even as He desired."
It is His choice and decision. Not ours. We each have a job to do. We need to be happy with that job and do it to the best of our ability.
"Not that I speak as to great need; for I have learned to be content in whatever state I am."
There is plenty for each of us to do, both regarding ourselves and our relationships. There is also plenty of encouragement and helpful words in the Scriptures. Let's close with some of those verses and spend some time thinking about them and implementing them into our lives, not worrying about what someone else is doing. In fact, if we really think about these and work on them the way we should, there would not really be any time to be critical of others and what they are doing or not doing.
"All that your hand finds to do, do it with your strength, for there is no work, or planning, or knowledge, or wisdom, in Sheol, there where you go."
Paul gave us some wonderful advice. Each verse of this section has a lot to consider.
"Let love be without dissimulation, shrinking from evil, cleaving to good.
"In brotherly love to one another loving fervently, having gone before one another in honor.
"As to diligence not slothful; warm in spirit, serving Yahweh.
"In hope, rejoicing; in affliction, enduring; in prayer, steadfastly continuing.
"Imparting to the needs of the saints; pursuing hospitality.
"Bless those who persecute you; bless, and do not curse.
"Rejoice with rejoicing ones and weep with weeping ones.
"Minding the same thing toward one another, not minding high things, but yielding to the lowly. Do not become wise within yourselves."
"He has declared to you, man, what is good; and what does Yahweh require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your Elohim?"
"Pure and undefiled religion before Yahshua and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their afflictions, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."
I Peter 3:8-12
"And finally, be all of one mind, sympathetic, loving the brothers, tenderhearted, friendly.
"Not giving back evil for evil, or reviling against reviling; but, on the contrary, give blessing; knowing that you were called to this in order that you might inherit blessing.
"For the one desiring to love life, and to see good days, let him restrain his tongue from evil, even his lips not to speak guile.
"Let him turn aside from evil, and let him do good. Let him seek peace, and pursue it.
"Because the eyes of the Master are on the righteous, and His ears open to their prayer. But the face of the Master is against any doing bad things."
II Peter 1:3-11
"As His divine power has given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness through the full knowledge of the One calling us through glory and virtue.
"By which means He has given to us the very great and precious promises, so that through these you might be partakers of the divine nature, escaping from the corruption in the world by lust.
"But also in this very thing, bringing in all diligence, filling out your faith with virtue; and virtue with knowledge.
"And knowledge with self-control; and self-control with patience; and patience with godliness.
"And godliness with brotherly love; and brotherly love with love.
"For these things being in you, and abounding, makes you not barren, not unfruitful in the full knowledge of our Master Yahshua Messiah.
"For the one in whom these things are not present is blind, being short-sighted, taking on forgetfulness of the cleansing of his sins in time past.
"On account of this, brothers, rather be diligent to make sure of your calling and election; for doing these things, you will not ever fall.
"For so will be richly furnished to you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Master and Savior, Yahshua Messiah."