Knowledge is power. It provides necessary insight into situations and problems so we can be better armed to deal with them. There are a host of dilemmas that we face that we have no chance of shaping into our desired outcome. Yet, with knowledge, we can make progress and, if nothing else, find peace with the outcome.
Men will do whatever they can to be at peace with themselves. The war raging in their minds to have their own way is palpable. It may conflict with societal norms, their core beliefs, or their upbringing. When this conflict occurs, the mind will wrestle and either cease from violating their beliefs or attempt to beat them into submission.
The conscience is a powerful tool if it is attuned to the standard of God’s word (1 Timothy 3:9). Yet, when it is not, it can lead us down dangerous paths (1 Timothy 4:2; Hebrews 10:22).
Silencing a guilty conscience is an arduous task filled with pain and confusion. We arm ourselves with rationalizations and denials and wade into battle. When we find victory, we can be at peace with our actions and continue on our selfish path. When we lose or find stalemate, our emotions become frayed and fierce.
When someone knows they are violating their conscience and cannot silence its protests, they become hostile to whomever agrees with their conscience. Being at peace with themselves means they must eliminate all of the reminders of their conscience’s complaints. The embodiment of their conscience may be a relative, friend, or coworker. They are the ones who remind the person of their sin. Their mere presence is enough to stir the pangs of guilt, bringing the pain back to the surface.
A Christian feels sadness over a fellow brother or sister who has left the Lord. He resolves to visit or call them so he can encourage them to return. His loving actions are met with open hostility. As he leaves, his ears ringing with the harsh language of their rebuke, he may wonder what he has done to deserve such treatment. Accordingly, he may shrink back from approaching another lapsed member for fear of a repeat performance.
This diligent Christian likely didn’t do anything to incite their hostility. They were just there to embody the guilty conscience of the sinner. They represented what the person hated. It wasn’t personal. The same reaction would have occurred if any other Christian would have visited.
As we work with those who have left the Lord so they can indulge in their sinful lifestyles, we must not give up on them easily. There is a point, however, in which they have sealed themselves off from returning to God (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31). Yet, until then, there is hope.
We approach them in “truth and love” armed with the knowledge that we may be ignored (Ephesians 4:15). If the encounter turns hostile, despite our kindnesses, then we must learn to separate ourselves from the anger. Realizing it isn’t directed at ourselves will help absolve our own guilt for angering them and allow us to be at peace with our mission in Christ.
Jesus said, “You will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). Jesus knew he would be rejected, as will we if we stand for his cause. Sin is the culprit and we must forever stand against it.
The worst course is to appease sinners so their wrath is cooled. This exhibits fear, a weak faith, and open hostility toward the soul of the sinner. If we care more for their feelings than their soul, then we have forgotten all we are about as Christians