A World Waiting To Be Won Duncan Heaster email the author


14. People Matter

14-1 People Matter || 14-2 A Feeling God || 14-3 The Personal Pleading Of The Prophets || 14-4 Passionate Preaching And Prayer

15. Hearts That Bleed

15-1 Hearts That Bleed || 15-2 The Parable of The Three Friends || 15-3 Passion For The Lost || 15-4 Loving Our Brethren || 15-5 Reaching Those Who Left Church || 15-6 The Heart Of Jesus || 15-7 The Value Of Persons || 15-8 A dehumanized world || 15-9 Grieving for others


15-4 Loving Our Brethren

Hearts that bleed will feel not only for the world, but for our brethren too. Think of Nehemiah: " I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber (Neh. 13:8). His grief led him to discipline Tobiah. Grief should likewise be the motive for ecclesial discipline today (as in 1 Cor. 5:2). The same word is translated " sad" in Neh. 2:3: " why should not my countenance be sad [grieved], when the city, the place of my fathers sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?" . The King observed that his " sorrow of heart" was written all over his face, even though he was trying to conceal it. His sadness for His weak people was engraven in His body language. It could not be hidden, even though he became as it were a fool for Christ’s sake.

Esther likewise, when she heard of the condemnation of her brethren, " was exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai" (Esther 4:4). Now, nothing else mattered. She openly identified herself with Mordecai and the Jews. She did what was not worldly-wise, because of her grief for people.

Asaph reflected upon the fate of the wicked within Israel: " Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction... Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee" (Ps. 73:17-22). On entering " the sanctuary" , he saw the plates around the altar, which were all that was left of Korah’s rebellion. " Thus my heart was grieved" - for the tragedy of that rebellion, for the tragedy of men experiencing Divine condemnation. He didn’t gloat over the punishment of the wicked. He grieved for it; it pricked his conscience, right within the depths of his being (" pricked in my reins" ). Korah again wrote in Ps. 41:1: “Blessed is he that considereth the poor”. The Hebrew really means to understand- that’s how it is normally translated. To be sensitive to the poor, to understand them, to have a heart that bleeds for them- this is what God seeks in us. The chief butler felt that he had committed a very serious sin in allowing the busyness of daily life and his demanding job to make him simply forget Joseph’s need and tragedy. The word in Gen. 41:9 for “faults” is really “sins”. Perhaps an intensive plural is being used here- as if to mean ‘my very great sin’. To forget others’ need due to the busyness of our lives is a great sin.

And David reached a like depth of feeling for Saul: " Thine enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred" (Ps. 139:20-22). David grieved for them, and in this sense his " hatred" of false ways was " perfect" . The same mixture of anger and yet grief is found in the Lord Himself; He looked round about upon them in anger, being grieved for their hard hearts (Mk. 3:5). We must ask ourselves whether we don’t have merely an indignant reaction at others’ unspirituality; the looking round on them with anger, and yet without the unpretended grief for the whole situation. As David was " pricked in my reins" , so the grief of Daniel for his people was deeply internal; this was no passing feeling of Oh what a pity it is that more won’t hear the Truth: " I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me" (Dan. 7:15).

If we are truly members of the one body, we will be affected by the sufferings of others in that body. The fact we are members of the one body of Jesus should exclude all self-centred feelings, in the sense that if one other part of the body suffers or rejoices, then we are to be affected by this. Heb. 13:3 tells us to " remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them, and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body" . We are to feel as if we are inside the body of our brethren. This is quite something. There is a purposeful ambiguity here. Whose body? The body of Jesus, or that of the suffering brother? Effectively, the one is the other. We can truly place ourselves in the place of others. The only other time the Greek word translated " remember" occurs is in Heb. 2:3: " What is man that thou art mindful of him" . Because of the almost senseless mindfulness of God for us down here on this speck of a planet, dust and water as we are… we must be inspired to likewise be mindful of our suffering brethren.

And thus Paul could write in truth: " Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?" (2 Cor. 11:29). The word he uses for " weak" is one which features frequently in his writings, and it nearly always refers to the spiritually weak (Rom. 4:19; 14:1,2,21; 1 Cor. 8:9,11,12). He was so sensitive to his brethren that when he considered their spiritual weakness, he felt the same. He identified with them, he could put his arm round someone who was all slipping way and say " I’m with you" and so evidently mean it. He had a genuine and obvious sense of solidarity with them. He wasn’t critical of them to the extent that he made a barrier between him and them. They knew his disapproval of their ways, but yet it was so evident that his heart bled for them. And when Paul saw a brother being offended, he burnt. His heart burnt and bled as he saw someone drifting away with a chip on their shoulder. He didn’t just shrug and think Well that’s up to them, their choice. He cared for them. That brother, that sister, and their future meant so much to him. If Paul had lived in the 21st century, he would have telephoned them, written to them, visited them, met with them week by week To be weak and to be offended are bracketed in Rom. 14:21: " thy brother is offended, or is made weak" . And in 2 Cor. 11:29 we have the same idea: " Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?" . The parallels imply that if the weak brother was offended, Paul himself was as it were offended, even though he himself didn’t stumble. He could identify with the spiritual weakness of others to the point of feeling that he himself had committed it or was in the shoes of the sinner- even though he himself was innocent.

In this he was living out the pattern of his Lord, who although sinless, so felt for us that it could be said that He was " made sin for us, who knew no sin" . Many brethren have pointed out the connections between the promises to David about Jesus, and the later commentary upon them in Psalm 89 and Isaiah 53, with reference to the crucifixion:

2 Sam. 7

Psalm 89

Isaiah 53

If he [Jesus] commit iniquity

If his children [us] forsake my law…

The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all

I will chasten him with the rod of men

Then will I visit their transgression with the rod

For the transgression of my people was he stricken

And with the stripes of the children of men

And their iniquity with stripes

With his stripes we are healed

The point of all this is to show how our sins were somehow born by Jesus, to the extent that He suffered for them. But how was this actually achieved? It is one thing to say it, but we must put meaning into the words. I suggest it was in that the Lord  so identified with us, His heart so bled for us, that He felt a sinner even though He of course never sinned. The final cry “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” clearly refers back to all the many passages which speak of God forsaking the wicked, but never forsaking the righteous. The Lord, it seems to me, felt a sinner, although He was not one, and thus entered into this sense of crisis and fear He had sinned. He so identified with us. In the bearing of His cross, we likewise must identify with others, with their needs and with the desperation of their human condition…and this is what will convert them, as the Lord’s identification with us saved us.

The cross is the supreme quintessence of this identity of the Lord with sinful men; but His whole life was comprised of hour by hour feelings of identity with the sick, the lonely, the addicted, the habitual sinners…and we, far away in time and perception, must seek to follow Him. This means that when we encounter human weakness and need, either materially or spiritually or emotionally, we put our arms and hearts out to help and identify, rather than pull back within ourselves. It may be there is a difficult brother or sister with whom we have to deal; or awkward neighbours or work fellows. Or those who have left our community or the way of Jesus. All these people have a need , a desperation, which lies beneath their surface problem and awkwardness; and it is this that we must seek to feel for and identify with, that we might bring them to us and to the Lord we, by grace, represent.

Our belief in the institution of our denomination, or a particular local ecclesia, can lead us to deal increasingly with abstractions of what things ought to be like, rather than the daily realities of the people who are part of that community. We can end up loving our dream or image of a community more than the people within it. By doing this we are forgetting that God has created each individual unique, to reflect His image and glory in a totally unique way. Yet all too easily Christian preachers can seek to stamp their image upon another of God’s children, insisting that things must be seen as they have been called to see them. Instead of letting God create His image in the other person, we can seek to enforce our image upon them. By thus constraining the other person, we are doing violence to their basic freedom before God. And this sort of thing goes on all too often, with insistence, e.g., that a person dresses as we do, thinks about Bible prophecy as we do, prays as we do…