Who Let the Snakes Out?
Growing up in the church, I’ve often heard the motto, “I want to go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can.” This is a noble and appropriate goal for a Christian and should be our mindset. We want to make a difference. One of the biggest ways to make a difference in the Church is doing all we can to make sure everyone in the Church remains faithful, and avoiding behaviors that would push them away.
We learn in Hebrews 10:24-25 not to neglect God nor our brothers and sisters, but to “exhort” and “stir [them] up to love and good works.” To exhort means to strongly encourage or urge someone to action. A huge reason we assemble is to encourage our brothers to continue to live for God, which should make assembling a unifying event. However, when we fail to exhort and stir one another up to love and good works, we open the door to division.
Paul wrote in Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” In what way could we be tempted? The sinning brother did wrong, not me! We can be tempted to lose our temper, as if we are the sinless judge. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 18:21-35 that we should be far more concerned about our own debt than our brother’s debt. We need to use more restraint—it doesn’t take a hammer to remove a fly from our brother’s forehead (Galatians 6). While we are commanded to restore our brothers, and to “pull them out of the fire (Jude 23),” we must realize only the gospel can convict a good and honest heart (Romans 1:16).
Often times, we fall prey to the sin of “evil speaking.” In this sin, not only do we allow hatred to get the best of us, we fail to warn our brother of his sin, giving him no chance to repent. This is against the biblical blueprint given in Matthew 18:15-17. Talking about our sinning brother without giving him the opportunity to correct his error does not harmonize with the following verses:
Ephesians 4:31: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”
Titus 3:2: “…speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.”
James 4:11: “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”
1 Peter 2:1: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking…”
Galatians 5:15: “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
Louis Rushmore writes:
“The prominent words in this verse of Scripture are ‘often used together of wild animals, or like cats and dogs’ (A. T. Robertson) or ‘of animals of prey’ (Liddell), and so this context describes Christians who act toward each other, howbeit figuratively, as ravenous, mortal enemies in the animal kingdom. Christians are not supposed to act like ‘wild animals in deadly struggle’ (Wuest). This type of behavior is as remotely removed from the ideal of the preceding verse as one could possibly imagine, which reads, ‘…You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Galatians 5:14)….
Robertson’s illustrates: ‘There is a famous story of two snakes that grabbed each other by the tail and each swallowed the other.’ What better way to demonstrate the absurdity and catastrophic outcome of Christians biting, devouring and consuming each other?”
In other words, “be kind.” Anyone who truly knows the bible can spot sin; one who practices the bible meekly warns his brother of his sin. Do we want only to prove to others that we know our brother is in sin, or do we want to effect change? When we humbly urge our brothers to turn to God, our congregation can become more like the church we read in the bible.