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(Photo courtesy of Carl Roessler -Copyrighted)

 

Chapter: 2.02
(Section 2: The Christian who has Stumbled)
Copyright Michael Bronson 1997, 1999, and 2000
BibleHelp.org

Summary
Unfortunately, many Christians have a bad habit of attacking their fellow Christians when they have fallen spiritually. Instead of criticizing those who have fallen, we should try to find a way to help them.

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As the crew of the whaling boat begins reeling in the whale they had just harpooned, they spotted a couple shark fins. They know if they don’t quickly host the whale out of the water, they will be inundated with sharks. Soon enough, dozens of sharks were frothing the water. With their eyes rolled back, the sharks began taking bites out of the whale.

The whaling crew desperately tries to save their catch. They begin beating the sharks off with paddles and hooking rods. Although they are able to injure several sharks, they still lost 1/3 of the whale. The ironic thing was, during this feeding frenzy, the sharks started attacking the other injured sharks.

Unfortunately, this savage behavior is typical of many Christians. It has been said, "The Christian army is the only army that kills its wounded." Instead of trying to help and provide spiritual first aid to a fallen brother or sister, many Christians attack them.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am deeply troubled and angered when a Christian’s lifestyle makes a mockery of God and becomes a stumbling block to many non-Christians. The fall of several TV evangelists (mid 1980’s) and Christian singers (mid 1990’s) are excellent examples. Their hypocritical lifestyles and moral failures have greatly damaged the cause of Christ. There is no doubt in my mind many people have been turned off to the gospel message because of what has happened. As a result, I believe many people are going to Hell because of their behavior.

I was also saddened by the response of other Christians to these incidents. Obviously, we should never tolerate sin. Yet, I saw a marked absence of compassion and sympathy for these fallen brothers and sisters. It reminds me of the story of the Good Samaritan where the priest crossed over to the opposite side of the road when he saw an Israelite who had been beaten and robbed (Luke 10:30-37).

How compassionate do you consider yourself? How many times have you prayed for a fallen brother you have openly criticized? It is my opinion, if you have not fervently prayed for the fallen Christian, you should probably keep your criticisms to yourself. Praying for a fallen brother not only provides him the needed spiritual support, it also helps align your attitude with God’s attitude.

Recently I heard about an interesting "compassion test" done at a seminary. The students had to write a report about compassion and the Good Samaritan. The morning the report was due, the teacher had a friend dress up like a person who had been beaten and robbed. He had ripped clothing, fake blood, etc. The teacher had the victim lie near the pathway where most of the students would walk to class. Surprisingly, all of these future pastors and missionaries walked past this person and offered no help. Obviously, there is a big difference between knowing what a Christian should do and actually doing it.

It is the condescending attitude of some Christians that saddens me the most. We are quick to point the finger at others when they make mistakes, but we seldom see our own glaring faults. It is almost as if some people don’t realize we are all made out of the same cookie dough and are just as capable of doing the same thing. During the 1980’s, one TV evangelist was very critical of another TV evangelist who had just publicly admitted his moral failure. In fact, he called the fallen evangelist the "cancer of Christianity." Ironically, while he was criticizing the fallen evangelist for moral failure, he was having secret meetings with a prostitute. Shortly afterwards, he was forced to step down because his moral failure was revealed.

While we all may be appalled by his behavior, we shouldn’t be too quick to condemn him. None of us are even close to being perfect. It just happened his faults were publicized and ours are not. How loyal would your friends be if your secret sins were published on the front page of a newspaper? Worse yet, what would happen if your thought life were published? We have no business worrying about the speck in our brother’s eye when we have a pole stuck in our own eye (Mt. 7:3-5). We are all vulnerable to spiritual and moral failure. Remember, King David (a man after God’s own heart) and King Solomon (the wisest man in the world) both suffered severe moral failure.

It is easy to miss the point Jesus was making when the woman caught in adultery was brought to Him (John 8:3-11). We tend to think Jesus was trying to put the Pharisees in their place. Actually, He was talking to all of us about our condescending attitudes. The Pharisees were not the only ones who were extremely judgmental about other people’s failures. The Pharisees were not concerned about the woman’s welfare and usually we are not concerned about the welfare of the fallen Christian. I think the point Jesus was trying to make was, "Be less concerned about their failures and be more concerned about their recovery and spiritual wellbeing."

We are more concerned about other people’s misbehavior than our own. An incident that recently took place in my neighborhood provides an excellent example of this. Several neighbors signed a petition demanding to have our streets patrolled for speeders. I found it comical when three of the people who signed the petition received speeding tickets as a result. It was even more comical, however, that these three people had the audacity to try to convince the officer not to give them tickets because they were the ones who signed the petition.

I would like to point out there is a difference between forgiving a person and trusting and respecting him. Trust and respect is something that has to be earned. Many people assume if you forgive a person, you must put things back to the way they were. Not only is this untrue, it is often unwise. There are always consequences for our sins.

Although prudence may require you to be more cautious in your dealings with a fallen brother, you still should have love and compassion for him. While it is easier to love a repentant brother, our love and compassion should not be dependent on the person’s repentance. Remember, it was while we were yet sinners (and unrepentant) that Christ died for us. Look at my chapter, Rising out of the Ashes, for more information on how we should treat a fallen brother.

Hallmark Hall of Fame has a movie called Harvest of Fire. It is a story of an FBI agent sent to a small Amish community to investigate the burning of several Amish barns. At first it was thought an outsider (or "English") was the arsonist. Since the Amish act and dress very different from the rest of the community, they are often mistreated. Most people thought solving this case was just a simple matter of finding which outsider was responsible.

I already knew a great deal about the Amish people, but this movie gave me new insights into why they maintain their "old fashioned" ways. Although I still do not agree with their structure of leadership and obsession with simplicity, I have a whole new appreciation and respect for these people. I now can see why they feel it is important to maintain this unique lifestyle, a lifestyle we find so peculiar.

Each Amish community has an Elder who provides guidelines that must be followed. Although most Christians try to live their lives within the constraints of what the Bible says is morally right and wrong, the Amish carry it a step further. They have an additional set of guidelines. They realize the Bible does not mandate these guidelines, but they feel these guidelines are important in maintaining a healthy community. As a result, each Elder has the responsibility to establish a lifestyle (or flavor) he feels is best for his community. This is why some communities use electric tools for construction while others will only use gasoline powered tools or no power tools at all.

An example of one of these "flavors" is the shape of the barn’s roof. The Amish community in this movie was only allowed to have arched roofs, not peaked roofs. One of the Amish farmers, however, felt a peaked roof would be much better. Since he refused to follow the Elder’s counsel, he was "shunned." Although most of us probably feel this is excessive punishment for this violation, obedience is a central component of the Amish culture.

As it turned out, it was this farmer’s son who was burning the barns. He was angry over the treatment of his father. Considering the "community effort" involved in Amish barn raisings, burning a neighbor’s barn is a slap against the whole community. When the father found out it was his own son who was setting the fires, he realized what his "pride" had done. As a result of his father’s repentance, the boy turned himself in to the Elders and subsequently to the police.

At this point you’re probably wondering why I am sharing this story. When the boy and his father were being led from the police station to the courthouse, they were approached by one of the victims. As a show of support for their repentant brothers, they asked if they can accompany them. As the camera pans back, it reveals the whole Amish community following behind to show their support. I defy anyone to watch this movie and not develop some tears at the end. Today’s church would be much different if we Christians could only show this same type of compassion and forgiveness. When we have to rebuke a person for a sin, it should always be for the purpose of restoration.

During the Revolutionary War, some American commanders realized it was better to only wound the British soldiers instead of trying to kill them. This strategy would take three British soldiers out of service because two healthy British soldiers would stop fighting and carry their fallen comrade to get medical attention. This special care is what you would expect from those who are concerned about the welfare of their comrades. While diverting so much attention to the wounded soldiers may not be the most efficient military strategy, it does tell you a great deal about the character of these people.

Do we tend to the needs of our fallen brothers and sisters? What does our treatment of our fallen brother and sisters tell others about the Christian Army? What legacy are we leaving behind? Sobering questions aren’t they?

The U.S. military has several elite military units, often referred to as the Special Forces. The Army Rangers is one of these units and has a history that goes back to the Revolutionary War. There are three main reasons why these elite fighting groups are so effective in devastating a superior force. First, only the best of the best make it into these units. Second, these units are highly trained. Third, they are trained to work together as a body.

The military has realized that a group of soldiers that work together as a single body is incredibly difficult to stop. This unity makes it possible for these small teams to be able to defeat overwhelming odds. This unity is essential to the success of these units.

To force these soldiers to think of themselves as a body, they are required to do everything together as a unit. They are given assignments that can only be accomplished if everyone works together as a team. These assignments are setup so that any disunity will result in failure. Not only are they trained to rely on their fellow soldiers to accomplish their mission, they are taught to think of their fellow soldier’s welfare as much as they think of their own.

When one of these soldiers is wounded, the whole body (unit) is wounded. When one soldier is incapacitated, the others will care for him. In their training they are taught, "You go in together, you stick together, and you come out together. If you can’t come out together, don’t bother coming out."

While it is easy for us to feel compassion for a wounded military soldier, it is much more difficult for us to feel compassion for a wounded Christian soldier. The reason for this is a fallen Christian soldier usually does not appear helpless and in need. Instead of being humbled and broken by their sin, a wounded Christian soldier often comes across as being proud, arrogant, or rebellious. Despite their lack of humility, these fallen Christians are still casualties of Satan’s devices; they have been taken out of the fight. Often these brothers and sisters don’t even realize Satan has neutralized them.

It is easy to come to the aid of a brother who realizes he needs help. It is much more difficult to come to the aid of a proud arrogant brother. Nevertheless, he still needs our help. Chances are he will not be open to any verbal help, so we must provide the needed support via fervent prayer.

It is important to understand that supporting our falling brother does not mean ignoring his sins. It is also important to understand that our goal must be restoration, not punishment. This may be very difficult to do if the brother has deeply hurt us. Nevertheless, we must care for him as though we were caring for ourselves.

The Army Ranger’s creed is, "Never shall I fail my comrades ... I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy." Wow, if the Christian Army would only treat their brothers and sisters the same way. If the Christian Army would follow this creed, the Christian landscape would be quite different.

 

Other Chapters in this Section

Home
Rising out of the Ashes
Shooting your Wounded
The Discouraged Heart
The Overwhelmed
Picking up the Pieces
I've Fallen and can't get Up
Secrets of Resisting Temptation
The Table Cloth (leaving our past sins behind us)
Guard Your Thoughts


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