A brother recently shared with me a great revelation: that God was speaking and showing him things that were intended as lessons for him alone. In times past, he had always passed along these lessons to other brothers and sisters in the form of words, corrections, and rebukes, setting himself up as a kind of “Holy Spirit Police” (his words) to make sure everyone else was doing what he thought they were supposed to be doing. He has since learned that most of these lessons were for his own growth and maturity anyway, not for everyone else.
What the brother is talking about is illustrated in the episode with Mary and Martha. It is instructive not only for what Martha does but for what she says:
“Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached [Jesus] and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me’” (Lk. 10:40).
That Martha is distracted with much serving speaks to the religious spirit that prevents so many from truly sitting at the feet of Jesus and hearing His Word. But the religious spirit is also seen in her (somewhat annoyed) request that Jesus should speak to Mary and get her to do what Martha thinks Mary should be doing. Martha is much serving; therefore, Mary should also be much serving, and Jesus should say something to her! Mary is wrong, and Jesus is wrong for not speaking to her, and Martha is now the Holy Spirit trying to fix everything. A couple of chapters later, we find a man wanting Jesus to “tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Lk. 12:13). In both instances, Jesus refuses the request.
“Lord, tell my sister to…” “Lord, tell my brother to…” If we could let go of the idea of bringing correction to everyone else, if we could resist the urge to point out every deficiency we think we see in others, if we could stop trying to be the Holy Spirit to everyone and just learn to be a good brother or sister, letting our Father decide the appropriate discipline, we will find that God is well able to direct our brothers and sisters without us getting in His way. And, we may discover that the problem isn’t really that other brother or sister at all.
There are many occasions where we expect others to be exact duplicates of our own selves, mirroring precisely our belief, faith, practice, opinion, custom, and interpretation before we will consider any kind of relationship with them. How much easier our lives would be if would look for areas of agreement, and grant leniency to others in differences of opinion!
“Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus…” (Rom. 15:5,6). Like-mindedness, according to Scripture, is not necessarily having the same opinion about everything. When we receive one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, love compels us to overlook some of the things we think we see in others, just as they are compelled to overlook our own weaknesses. This Scripture says we are to be like-minded “according to Christ Jesus.” If we are in agreement concerning His Son, it is enough; agreement on everything else is nice, but not a necessity.
After His resurrection, Jesus gave instructions to Peter that he should “feed My lambs.” Right after that, Peter looked at John and said, “Hey Lord! What about him? What should this man do?” And Jesus said, “What is that to you? You follow Me” (John 21:21, 22). I think this is a nice way of saying, “None of your business, Peter! Why are you asking Me about what John should be doing? You follow Me, you focus on Me, you obey Me. I have something for John, and I will see to John and James and Andrew and everyone else. I will bring them where they need to be. I said feed My sheep, not direct them!”
Christians have a tendency to judge one another over things that seem really important but usually turn out to be non-essential and inconsequential. We go too far, and we often get it wrong. Can we trust that our Father, Who sees all and knows all, is quite capable of correcting His own children? Or do we still think He needs our help? Do we think we need to go to our Father and tell Him what to do about someone else? In most families that will get you labeled as a tattletale! It becomes a threat: “I’m gonna tell Daddy what you’re doing, and then you’ll be sorry!”
“Mary has left me alone to serve! Speak to her Lord and tell her to help me!”
“Lord, speak to my brother and tell him to divide the inheritance with me!”
“Jesus, we saw some others using your Name to cast out devils, but we told them to stop, since they aren’t part of our group!”
“Lord, would you like us to call down fire from heaven and consume them now?”
“Lord, there’s a group of children here trying to get You to bless them. Shall we shoo them away for You?”
“Dad, I can’t believe you’re throwing a party for this no-good brother of mine, when I’ve been faithfully serving you all these years!”
I have to think God listens and laughs at all of our ridiculous tattletales about others:
“Child, you have no idea what you are talking about. You only see in part. You do not see what I see. You do not know what I know. Those are My children, not yours! And by the way… did you clean your room like I asked you to?”
Father knows best – and once we accept it, we can stop pretending to be grown-ups with all the answers and we can become His little children again. Amen.