If you are a Christian teacher of the Bible who labors to follow Jesus’ example and His New Testament’s instructions in your life and teaching of God’s Word, it is important to understand and prepare yourself for those family members who, whether related to you by blood or law, think they are exempt from being taught Biblical truths that expose and refute their sins and/or spiritual weaknesses. To some of them being related to you means that you do not teach the Bible to them as you do to those unrelated to you. The foregoing is the case with those family members outside of Christ as well as those in Christ who are guilty of sin.
The foregoing is also true for some who are your close friends. Their understanding of being close friends means that they are exempt from your rebukes for any sins they have committed. Although in their thoughts or words they have never explicitly (in just so many words) said as much, they assume you have the same view of what it means to be their close friend as they do to be yours―close friends do not deal with each other’s sins as they do with other people’s sins. They expect preferential treatment. It is best described as the sinful “respecter of persons” mentality. When one must deal with the sins and/or spiritual weaknesses of family members and/or close friends in seeking to bring them to repentance, it will not take long to see which of them will thank you for loving them enough to say things to them that they need to hear, which things are painful for them to hear as well as for you to say.
It must have been a painful thing for the apostles Paul and Peter, along with their brethren, when Paul’s love for Jesus, His truth, His church, and Peter’s soul to withstand his fellow apostle, Peter, “to the face” because of the latter’s sin of hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11, 13). But not only had Peter sinned himself, but his sinful conduct caused other brethren to follow in his hypocritical footsteps. Paul’s public rebuke of Peter must have been at the very least a great embarrassment to Peter. However, on more than one occasion during our Lord’s personal ministry Jesus had rebuked Peter, and sometimes sharply, for his sins and spiritual weakness (Matthew 16:33; 13:31; Mark 14:29, 30). But to Peter’s great credit we see how humble, teachable, and correctable the apostle was (Proverbs 9:8; 13:1; 27:6; Ecclesiastes 7:5).
The episode of Paul rebuking Peter because of the latter’s sin did not result in the two apostles being estranged from one another as many times it is the case. There is no indication in the sacred writings that Peter was upset and angry with Paul because the latter publicly rebuked him for his sin. Peter did not cease to speak to or avoid Paul because the former was rebuked by the apostle to the Gentiles. In fact, many years later Peter referred to Paul “as our beloved brother” (II Peter 3:15). All too often when some brethren are publicly or privately rebuked for their sins, especially if the rebuke comes from brethren in the Lord who are family members or close friends, those receiving the rebuke forever hold a grudge against the one who delivered the rebuke.
Peter bore the marks of Christian character traits that all too few exercise when their sins are exposed by one who loves them enough to rebuke them for their sins. However, we who would be faithful in all things must be willing to lose the closeness that exists between family members as well as the closeness of our best friends in demonstrating our love for God, His Word, the church, and the sinner in need of rebuking. All too often those family members and close friends turn out to be only “fair weather friends” and “sunshine patriots.” They are simply not all they would have you to believe they are when it comes to their Christianity.
On the other hand, we who may be on the receiving end of a justified rebuke ought to look to Peter for an example of how to receive a deserved rebuke in being willing to cast down whatever pride we may have hindering us from making whatever corrections we need to make in order to be faithful to God. Moreover, we should be thankful for the child of God who loved us enough to point out our spiritual weaknesses and sins. Surely, if we understand that we have an obligation to God to rebuke the sins of our brethren, then we should also understand that we are to welcome being shown our sins by someone else, especially when we are rebuked by family members and friends, close or otherwise.
In closing this brief message we must realize that none of us who rightfully wear the name of Christ ought to allow pride, emotions, or relationships to cause us to fail in what needs to be said to or done with people in our efforts to get them to repent of their sins. The unforgiven sins in our lives are the only things that can separate us from God. Thus, those sins must be dealt with according to the scriptures. In order to do that, sinners must know and come to grips with the fact that certain actions in their lives are sinful and if heaven is to be their home they must repent of those sinful actions. Of course, if they do not repent, then at their death, or if the Lord returns first, they will be sentenced to eternal torment in a devils hell. No one wants that to happen to anyone―especially one’s dearly beloved family members and close friends. And to them and all others with Paul we ask, “Am I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth” (Galatians.4:16).
David P. Brown