In “Forgiven, Part 6”, we looked at the story of the prodigal son and discovered how excited his father was when he who was lost returned home. The father welcomed the wayward boy with open arms.
But not everyone was so hospitable. His older brother was fuming with anger that the prodigal had received such royal treatment.
Why is it that so many believers have “older brother” attitudes? They see nothing but fault in those who are just starting to learn about God, to discover Him, to experience His love and forgiveness. They aren’t happy with anyone around them, except perhaps, those who conform to their thinking, and they breed poison in our congregations, poison so toxic that it discourages people from coming to church!
While visiting a memorial to the WWI trenches in Diksmijde, Belgium, last summer, I realized where such poison comes from.
You see, life in those trenches was far from pleasant. Being bored and lonely, some of the soldiers discovered the birds. Birds are always cheerful and resilient. They would ignore the war going on around them, continuing to sing despite the enemy lines, and only flying away when a shell was on its way. Also, unlike the foxes and dogs (which interestingly, are considered man’s faithful companions) none of these birds, including crows and ravens, ever gnawed on corpses. The birds became a real source of encouragement to the discouraged soldiers.
Some of the soldiers succeeded in domesticating a few of the birds. Then one day, they found their fluffy companions dead. Before long, several of the soldiers were suffocating as well. It was that day they realized that birds are even more susceptible to odorless, poisonous gasses than human beings.
It wasn’t long before every platoon began keeping caged birds in the trenches. If one of these birds succumbed, they knew that poisonous gas was in the air, and soldiers would immediately know to put on protective gear.
Just where did these toxic, poisonous gasses come from?
From one place only: the enemy!
The criticism and discouragement we so often see in our churches are like those toxic gasses. They are a tool of the enemy, designed to discourage believers. These do not come from God! Far from it! In fact, God orders us to stop this behaviour! “Let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” (Rom 14:13 NIV)
No, if there is criticism in our midst, it is a result of a toxic, poisonous gas that comes directly from the enemy camp!
“This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10 NIV)
It’s really a clever move on the part of the enemy. What better way to undermine God Himself than infiltrating His people with enemy weapons?
But now we face another dilemma. God also asks us to correct His wayward children. How are we to decide who is being motivated by the evil one, and who is sincerely delivering a message from God?
But perhaps the question should be, is this really our place to decide? Isn’t this also a type of judgment, and doesn’t it put us at the same level as our enemy? This will be the question we will explore in Forgiven, Part 8.
In the meantime let us stand firm against the enemy of our soul and rejoice like the birds of the fields that our God truly loves us enough to accept us unconditionally, with wide open arms!
(To access the entire “Forgiven” devotional series, please click here.)