Life Lesson #14: Your gift of salvation is not a private affair. We are to be our brother’s keeper.
Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. Jude 1:22-23
When I first started going to church, I had two other friends who were also exploring their faith. It was a great time when we gathered with our families and openly shared our questions and concerns about religion and our beliefs. One friend became a devout Catholic – the faith of her husband’s family. Another followed me into the Presbyterian church – which was my husband’s background. At one point my fellow traveler baptized her youngest and we were honored to be his God parents.
Shortly after joining the church the horrifying event of 9-11 happened. It drew many of us to church each week. But as the months went by, my fellow faith traveler began to drift away. As a new Christian I wasn’t skilled or knowledgeable enough to help draw her back in. I felt it was none of my business.
And there lies one of the great debates of the Bible. Are we our brother’s keeper or not? Before we got to the message in 1 Thessalonians of caring for our fellow Christian’s state of faith we heard from Cain.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9
Setting aside the audacity of Cain speaking so flippantly to God, we see the immediate need to shrink from our duty to care for our fellow man. Of course, in Cain’s situation, it was to cover for a great sin. This is the “I have my own problems so why should I be concerned about anyone else’s?” way of looking at the question of are we our brother’s keeper.
God does not ask or require of us to take on all the burdens of our fellow man. In fact, throughout the Bible it’s made clear that a heart change and therefore a behavior change is a very personal responsibility. Something that can only be accomplished between an individual and God.
No man can be his brother’s keeper in the sense of taking upon himself another man’s responsibilities.Charles Spurgeon
A friend once told me that after a long, difficult day of being a school counselor, in a particularly troubled area of town, she would go home and eat an entire pint of ice cream. The stress of responsibility she felt was physically taking its toll. God does not require us to be this heavily burdened with a person’s faith conversion. But what if we took it at least as seriously as we do so many other things in our lives?
Our responsibility is heavy enough without our exaggerating it; we are not men’s sponsors, and if they reject our Saviour whom we faithfully preach their blood must be upon their own heads.Charles Spurgeon
So what of our verse from Jude today? What is our responsibility to being our brother’s keeper? So often, I believe, when we hear this phrase, we imagine ourselves constantly correcting and judging someone. But a careful study of the Bible’s message about this topic leads to one conclusion – speaking the truth of the Gospel and nothing more.
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
Wandering from the truth. Remember my fellow faith traveler? She is the person mentioned first in the verse today – “one who doubts.” She wasn’t sure she believed in all that Christians teach. She was being called back into the world daily. What she and all new Christians need from their fellow believers and churches is special care and compassion.
I love how my younger daughter’s church places new members (and even non-members) immediately into a small faith family. That’s where they can share their questions without judgment. They are welcomed weekly with open arms and open hearts. On the opposite end, I’ve been in churches where small groups are barely mentioned and seem to be a place only for mature, involved Christians.
“It is much easier to instruct new Christians and keep them away from the false teachers than it is to snatch them from the fire.”Warren Wiersbe
Jude then goes on to admonish us to snatch others from the fire. According to Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe, these are people who have left our Christian fellowship and are now part of an apostate, or false teaching, group. What is our responsibility to them?
We might be led to think we have no responsibility at all. “Who am I to tell them what they think is wrong?” It’s a refrain I’ve heard from quite a few long-time Christians. But who are we? We are the recipients of the greatest sacrifice of all eternity. A gift that has always been meant to be shared.
I tell you a cold-hearted Christian makes worldlings think that Christianity is a lie.Charles Spurgeon
I have friends who consider themselves “spiritual” but not “religious.” What I’ve come to understand is the word “religious” is actually a substitute for believing that Jesus is the one and only Savior. Usually in the same conversation I hear “who am I to say there’s only one path to God?”
If we are not secure enough in our own faith and the Word of God, we won’t have an answer. We may not be responsible for someone’s heart decision but it is clear that we are responsible for knowing that Jesus is the Way. And that knowledge is not to be held in a lockbox. Jesus isn’t for some people. He is for all people – every race, creed, and nationality.
With truth plus love we can stand for God in the face of our “spiritual” friends. When the opportunity arises in conversation, we must see it as God’s open door. And if we refuse to take the step through the door, we must then accept some responsibility for that person’s place in eternity.
If you want to destroy a man you need not teach him to drink or swear: keep back the gospel from him. Be in his company and never say a word for Christ. Be where you ought to speak and be sinfully silent, and who knows how much blood will be laid to your door.Charles Spurgeon
Our burden is to do God’s bidding. Not for God to do ours. How many times have you had the opportunity to speak God’s truth yet shrunk back in fear of reprisal or embarrassment?
And so, we come to the last person described by Jude. The person or people to whom we should show mercy mixed with fear. Not many of us are equipped to deal with false teachers or with their ardent followers. These days people have turned from the religion of God to the religions of the environment, of self-love, of wokeness, of the state, and so on. And their followers are admirably zealous. To stick a Christian toe into the mind of one of these believers can be quite dangerous. But that doesn’t mean God wants us to forget about them.
The very fact that there is a Christ at all means that there was one who cared for others, and that our Lord became a man means that he loved his enemies and came here to rescue those who rebelled against his authority.Charles Spurgeon
I was praying the other day for something I realized later was wrong thinking. I prayed that this blog would have a larger audience. That same day I watched a video by a pastor from Colorado titled, “What does the Bible say about homosexuality.” It was a great deep dive into related scripture. And then came the comments. I will summarize them by saying his responses to the vitriol were very Christ-like. Notice the title wasn’t, “What I think about homosexuality.” And yet the personal attacks were disturbing. In reading his responses I realized that in no way am I prepared to dive into that pool.
So, what is our responsibility in situations like these? Again, if God opens the door, He will also have your back. But if He doesn’t, He always asks us to pray for others. Knowing who and what we need to pray requires us to be mature in our faith. We need to pray fervently for the saving of souls.
And, you saved ones, you owe much to God, but do not think that you are saved for your own especial benefit alone.Charles Spurgeon
The gathering of souls for God should be every, single Christian’s mission in life. Starting first in our homes, then amongst our friends, our neighbors and then the world. We may not always have a one-on-one conversation but we can always pray. We can give with open hands to mission programs. Most importantly, we should always be asking God, “who can I help you save today?” And then walk through that door.
The Charles Spurgeon quotes used in this blog come from the sermon titled, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper.” Check it out and be energized for our mission of sharing the gospel!