Gal 5: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. NASV
The following article is written from a Bible Student perspective, based on a generally healthy congregation, where there is freedom and liberty to express ones point of view, just like in the Early Church. In such a circumstance we would advise generally submitting to others and not pushing our own will, except where our conscience is violated. However, the thoughts we will express of submission and returning good for evil do not always apply. When crimes have been committed that are punishable in the courts, such as in the case of child molestation, pedophilia and rape, we advise that the greatest good you can do for the criminal is to report him/her to the authorities. In jail the criminal will be prevented from continuing to injure you and others.
Gal 5:19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. NASV
Keep in mind that we are talking about normal conflicts between brethren in an environment of liberty, as in the Early Church. This is the only context in which these comments will make sense
Our difficult experiences can be quite distressing, but at the same time we can rejoice that the Lord is chiseling and polishing us through these trials as a precious stone in His glorious temple. We are very familiar with the Apostle Peter’s words, that we should not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you – 1 Pet 4:12.
Malachi 3:3 says, And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
So be strong and of good courage. Jehovah and Jesus deeply love you. As long as you are faithful to them and do their will (even if others around you make bad choices) you can hope to hear some day, “well done you good and faithful servant.” Hallelujah !!! We must do our best to promote Jehovah’s will and to help the brethren, but we can only do so much. After that we need to leave the matter in the Lord’s hands, trusting that His divine wisdom and overruling providences will work out all things for the best. (Rom 8:28) Even if some brethren are criticizing you, as long as you are following the Lord’s will in a good conscience, you are doing the right thing. Discerning and honest brethren will see your example, zeal, fairness and kindness; and they will love you for it.
Sometimes our biggest trials will come from the brethren. The Apostle Paul lamented am I become your enemy by telling you the truth? – Gal 4:16
Paul sometimes suffered false accusations and ill treatment from among some of the brethren. In 2 Cor 12:15-18, we are told that some accused Paul of deceit and of trying profit from them. Yet Paul went out of his way to make certain he was never a burden to the Corinthian brethren. He said that it seemed that the more he loved them, the less they loved him. Although falsely accused by some brethren, Paul’s response was with a gentle defense. He looked at his trials among the brethren in a positive light.
2 Corinthians 12:10 So I take pleasure in being feeble, in unkind words, in needs, in cruel attacks, in troubles, on account of Christ: for when I am feeble, then am I strong. BBE
2 Corinthians 1:6 But whether we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or whether we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which worketh in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: KJV
When there was trouble among the brethren, Paul in the case below argued that it would be better to be wronged rather than to fight back.
1 Corinthians 6:7 Nay, already it is altogether a defect in you, that ye have lawsuits one with another. Why not rather take wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? KJV
Joseph set a wonderful example of returning good for evil when he forgave his brothers and took care of them, saving them from the famine, even though they had sold him into slavery. (Gen 45)
While David was fleeing for his life from Absalom, Shemie, of the house of Saul, cursed David and threw stones at him, asserting that God was punishing David for the blood of Saul’s house.
2 Sam 16:9 Then Abishai… said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!” 11 And David said… “See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him. 12 It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day.” NKJV
Here David submits to the circumstances, accepting the experience as a lesson from the Lord trusting that the Lord would work all things together for good as long as he acted in an honorable and humble manner. More related lessons from David’s life can be found in Watchtower Reprint 3238, “Overcoming Evil with Good.”
The Apostle Paul exemplified this same spirit of submission and forgiveness when abandoned by fearful brethren.
2 Tim 4:16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. NKJV
So if we feel that the brethren have failed us, let us accept the experience as a testing from the Lord and an opportunity to demonstrate the depths of our own Love for our brethren. When the brethren in Corinth were divided, Paul advised that they should not be.
1 Cor 3:3 Because you are still in the flesh: for when there is envy and division among you, are you not still walking after the way of the flesh, even as natural men? 4 For when one says, I am of Paul; and another says, I am of Apollos; are you not talking like natural men? – BBE
Sometimes, the best way you can be a leader is by being the best example, by rising above the bad choices of others. In 1 Peter 5:3, the Apostle Peter admonishes the elders to lead the flock, Not as lords over God’s heritage, but making yourselves examples to the flock. – KJV
In the resurrection, will we be able to stand before Jehovah and defend our behavior and actions, and honestly say that we did the best thing for the body of Christ, and that this is evidence to support that we would make a good king and priest to reign with Christ?
We close with the Apostle Paul’s words:
2 Cor 11:14 Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 But be that as it may, I did not burden you myself; nevertheless, crafty fellow that I am, I took you in by deceit. 17 Certainly I have not taken advantage of you through any of those whom I have sent to you, have I? 18I urged Titus to go, and I sent the brother with him. Titus did not take any advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk in the same steps? 19 All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. Actually, it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your upbuilding, beloved. 20 For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances; 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.
How does the Apostle Paul’s attitude and behavior compare to that of Elders, Circuit Overseers, District Overseers and the Governing Body?