Three Principles on How to Love Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ
By Bai Yang
The Lord Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39). To love our neighbors as ourselves is something the Lord Jesus asks of us, and it is also the normal humanity we should live out. In our lives, we all wish to practice in accordance with the Lord’s teachings, to help and support our weak brothers and sisters with love, to intercede on behalf of brothers and sisters who have issues, and to give alms to help those brothers and sisters whose families struggle to meet their everyday needs, and so on. A lot of the time, however, we see that some brothers and sisters remain in a state of negativity and weakness despite receiving our help many times, and we just don’t know what else we can do. Sometimes, not only do we not resolve the issues of our brothers and sisters, but we can make them become even more negative. We therefore become confused, and think: I’ve tried my best to help my brothers and sisters, so how come I still haven’t been able to resolve their issues? Have I done something at odds with God’s will? In what way can I help and support my brothers and sisters in order to reap good results?
With these questions in mind, I sought and prayed to God, and I sought to fellowship with some experienced brothers and sisters who comparatively pursued the truth, and I finally found three paths of practice. Here below I shall share with everyone the tiny harvest I have wrought in the hope that it may assist my brothers and sisters.
1. When Helping and Supporting Brothers and Sisters, Take an Individual Approach, Not a “One Size Fits All” Approach
When we are helping and supporting our weak brothers and sisters, we always hope that they will come through their difficulties as soon as possible and then be able to attend church gatherings and read the Bible with a positive attitude. Much of the time, however, we can easily overlook the objective difficulties that our brothers and sisters have, as well as their actual statures and, with our good intentions and enthusiasm to help, we jump in with both feet, imposing the same standards on brothers and sisters who all have different statures. The result of this is that, not only do we not resolve their issues, but we also make some brothers and sisters feel that we are demanding more of them than they can achieve, and thus they become even more negative, and they backslide even more. God’s word says, “God’s work is carried out according to people’s actual circumstances, and is based on their innate caliber” (“Concerning the Bible (2)”). “You must understand the difficulties that objectively exist for most people, you must not be unreasonable or ‘try to teach a pig to sing’; that is foolish behavior. To resolve the many difficulties of men, you must understand the dynamics of the work of the Holy Spirit, you must understand how the Holy Spirit performs work on different people, you must understand the difficulties of men, the shortcomings of men, see through to the key issues of the problem, and get to the source of the problem, without deviations or errors. Only this kind of person is qualified to coordinate to serve God” (“What an Adequate Shepherd Should Be Equipped With”). These words allow us to understand that each brother and sister has different strengths and a different caliber, that they have not all believed in God for the same length of time, that they are all of different statures, that their understanding of the truth is all at different levels, and the states that arise within them when they encounter difficulties also differ from person to person. We must therefore take each case individually. Based on our individual inherent calibers and statures — that is, according to our individual actual situations — God asks of us only that which is appropriate. He does not constrain us to do anything that is beyond our ability to do or that which is entirely beyond us. Therefore, when we are helping and supporting our brothers and sisters, we should follow this principle too, and we have to understand the objective difficulties and actual situation of our brothers and sisters, take an individual approach, not a “one size fits all” approach, and not ask anything of our brothers and sisters that is beyond their ability to achieve. For example, when it comes to having no time to attend church gatherings, it could be because some brothers and sisters have only believed in God for a short time, because they don’t grasp the significance of attending gatherings, because they don’t understand God’s will and requirements and because they follow worldly trends and pay no heed to gatherings. We should therefore fellowship with them patiently to make them understand the importance of attending gatherings and so that they thoroughly understand that, by becoming mired in worldly trends, the only outcome will be that they will grow farther and farther away from God. Some brothers and sisters have believed in God for a long time and ordinarily they attend gatherings regularly, but because something untoward has happened at home, and they are blaming and misunderstanding God, they then miss a gathering. In this case, we can fellowship with them on what God’s will is and what God requires of us when trials and adversity befall us, and when the brother or sister’s misunderstandings about God have been dispelled, they then become willing to attend gatherings again. These are just two examples of how we can help brothers and sisters when they do not attend church gatherings. Once we have understood the actual difficulties of our brothers and sisters and have pondered how to help them in order to achieve good results, God will enlighten and guide us and, through fellowshiping with them God’s will and requirements, our brothers and sisters can then come through their difficulties.
2. When Helping and Supporting Our Brothers and Sisters, We Should Exalt and Bear Witness to God, and Use Our Actual Experiences to Help Others
When we are supporting our brothers and sisters, we often use some well-known verses from the Bible, some theological theories or our own experiences of giving things up, expending ourselves and suffering, in order to give them advice and encouragement. From the outside, it appears as though we are trying to inspire our brothers and sisters, but unbeknownst to us, by doing this we can make our brothers and sisters look up to us and hold us in high esteem and, in actual fact, we are showing ourselves off and flaunting ourselves in a covert way. This is because, after we have given fellowship in this way, our brothers and sisters still haven’t understood the Lord’s will and requirements but, on the contrary, will believe that we have a great understanding of the Bible and have hearts that love the Lord. Some will say, “You have such great stature and you love the Lord. My stature is nowhere near as great as yours so I can’t do what you ask.” Some may be momentarily inspired by what we say, but afterward they become lost again, and their actual issues are left unresolved.
So how should we practice in a way that exalts God and bears witness to God, and in a way that can genuinely resolve the issues of our brothers and sisters? It says in Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life: “If someone has a problem, we should bring them before God through fellowshiping with them about the truth and through fellowshiping about God’s words, so that they may pray and seek the truth in God’s presence — this is exalting God and bearing witness to God. … If you have experience, then you should take out God’s words and take out the truth, and say, ‘When I came across this problem before, I came to understand God’s will and His words through prayer, and in the end my views were changed. I chose to do in such a way, and I practiced in such a way….’ This is bearing witness to God. Talk about how God’s words enlightened you, illuminated you and changed you, and how in the end you were able to obey God — this is bearing witness to God and bearing witness to the results achieved by God’s work. By talking about your own experiences, you bear witness to God and exalt God, and it benefits, supplies and edifies others” (“Tasks that Servants of God Must Complete” in Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life III). From this we can see that, when we are helping and supporting our brothers and sisters, the most important thing is to exalt God’s words and take the measure of our brothers and sisters’ actual difficulties, and through fellowshiping our own actual experiences or those of others, to make them see that, when they encounter problems or difficulties, they should rely on God, seek to understand the truth and understand God’s will. Only then can their difficulties be resolved, and that is the only genuine way to bring someone before God. For example, when we see a brother or sister languishing in sickness, we can talk to them of our own experiences of sickness, the weakness and pain we felt when we were sick, how we sought and prayed to God, how we understood God’s will from within His words, what we came to understand about ourselves, what we gained by practicing in accordance with God’s words, how we felt in our spirits, and so on. Once we have given fellowship on our own actual experiences, then the brother or sister we are helping will not only not hold us in high esteem and idolize us, but instead will be better able to understand God’s will and requirements. They will come to have some understanding of their own shortcomings and the corrupt dispositions that exist within them and, from the midst of their difficulties, they will be able to see God’s love for man, and they will naturally come through their weakness and negativity, and leave it all behind them.
3. Help and Support Brothers and Sisters as Their Equal, and Be More Loving and Patient
When brothers and sisters are feeling negative and weak, we should be sympathetic toward their difficulties, treat them as our equals, help and support them with love and patience and talk heart-to-heart with them, for only by doing these things can good results be achieved. From our experiences, however, we see that, at the very beginning we are able to help and support our brothers and sisters with love, but when their negativity persists after supporting them a few times, we then stop being loving and patient with them. Instead, we live within our satanic disposition of arrogance and self-conceitedness, we belittle and look down on our brothers and sisters in our hearts, we decide that they are not pursuers of the truth, and thereafter when we help and support them, we are condescending and preach doctrine to them, and we even begin to lecture them. By fellowshiping in this way, all we do is make our brothers and sisters feel constrained, so much so that they even begin to feel aversion toward us, and thus their problems are naturally left unresolved.
To take a recent example, the husband of Sister Zhang from our church had an affair and her life became very painful, and her heart was no longer present during gatherings. When I saw Sister Zhang feeling negative and weak, pained and upset, I felt bad too, and I went to her home many times to help and support her. After some time, however, her negative and weak state was still no better, and I began to become prejudiced against her. I thought: “I’ve tried to help you so many times, so how can you still be so negative?” Whenever I tried to help her after that, my tone became hard, and I wanted her to act according to the standards I demanded of her. In the end, not only were her difficulties not resolved, but she stopped wanting to speak with me anymore, and I felt darkness and distress in my heart. At that point, I went before God to seek and pray, and I read these words of God: “God uses His words, His truth and His life to continuously provide for man, to support man. When man is weak, when man is feeling down, God certainly does not speak harshly, saying: ‘Do not feel down. What are you down for? What are you weak for? What is there to be weak about? You are so weak and always so down. What is the point in living? Just die!’ … The reason why God does not act this way is because of His essence, the essence of the holiness of God. His love for man, His treasuring and cherishing of man cannot be expressed clearly in just one or two sentences. It is not something that is brought about by man’s boasting but is something that God brings forth in actual practice; it is the revelation of God’s essence” (“God Himself, the Unique IV”). As I contemplated God’s words, I thought of how God is the Creator and is supreme, and yet He has personally incarnated to express His words and perform His work to save man. What’s more, God has never once during His work spoken condescendingly to man, much less lectured man. Instead, He just quietly expresses the truth, supplies us according to our needs and shortcomings, and works to save us with the greatest patience and love. God’s essence is so beautiful and good, so loveable, and it is worth us emulating! But when I reflected on my own actions and behavior, I saw that when I’d tried to support Sister Zhang several times only to see that her state remained just as negative as it was before, I had lost my patience, I had belittled her, looked down on her, and had decided that she was not a pursuer of the truth. Only then did I realize that my own nature was so arrogant, and that I was not loving or patient toward others at all. Not only had I failed to help my sister to leave her pain behind, but I had also made her feel constrained, and by doing this I had truly failed to live up to God’s commission. I then no longer wished to rely on my arrogant disposition in my approach to my sister but wished only to fellowship with her with an open heart.
After that, I opened up to my sister about my inner corruption, and I apologized to her. Unexpectedly, my sister also told me her innermost thoughts and, at that moment, I felt as though our relationship had instantly become a lot closer. Later, under God’s guidance, I found many chapters of God’s words that I could use against the state she had found herself in and, through fellowshiping God’s words, she came to understand that her husband had strayed because he had been deceived and corrupted by the evil trends of Satan. She also came to see that, as human beings, if we do not come before God and do not understand the truth, then we are unable to tell the difference between what is positive and what is negative, we are unable to withstand the invasion of this evil tide, we lose our humanity, our reason, our dignity and integrity, we regard having an affair as normal, and the result of all this is that we cause great harm to our families. After she’d understood these things, my sister’s state improved a great deal and she was no longer pained by her husband’s betrayal. Instead, she became able to let go of the resentment in her heart and face the end of her marriage with equanimity, whilst at the same time she became willing to believe in God in earnest and repay His love.
I came to realize from this experience that, when we are helping our brothers and sisters, we must approach them according to their actual stature, caliber and state, search for the relevant principles of the truth, and use our own actual experiences to help and support them. We should also approach them as their equal and take their difficulties into consideration more, be more loving and patient with them, chat with them as a friend or a family member and talk heart-to-heart with them, for only by doing this can good results be achieved. There is one point we must take note of, however: If after we have fellowshiped with a brother or a sister many times and their negative state is still no better, or else they are unable to accept what we say to them for the moment, we must stop fellowshiping with them in order to prevent them from developing an aversion toward us. At this time, we should offer up our prayers for them and ask God to move their heart, and then afterward find a suitable opportunity to fellowship with them again. Through helping our brothers and sisters in such a practical way, they will come to feel our sincerity and will become willing to open their hearts to us and tell us their innermost thoughts. Once they have understood God’s will from within His words and have found the path of practice, they then become willing to proactively move forward once again.
Here above are the three principles on how to help and support our brothers and sisters. So long as we all put them into practice and enter into them, we will surely reap results. May the Lord bless us and guide us as we serve Him!
From: Grow in Christ