A Brotherly Exhortation to Fault Finders
We have no sympathy whatever with that discouraging character of ministry which ever blames the saints for this, that, and the other. What is needed in these days where all are more or less wrong is to help, cheer, encourage, and strengthen one another's hands. Occupation with evil defiles. There are certain religious periodicals almost wholly devoted to the exposure of 'Modernism' and other evils. It may be necessary occasionally to refer to evil persons and evil things. But an undue occupation with sin has a defiling effect. Walk with Christ; hear the Shepherd's voice; that is your safeguard (see John 10:27; 1 John 2:24). Occupation with good strengthens, purifies, and secures the company and fellowship of the God of peace (Phil 4:8,9).
Individually we have to find our way through a scene of ruin and of failed responsibility, where all have gone wrong, but it must be a path of holiness (2 Tim. 2:19). Now there is an unhappy spirit of faultfinding abroad. Controversy and quarrelling too are rife. We would most affectionately and earnestly press upon all believers, especially upon the young, to cultivate a pure and fervent love to all believers, to own frankly all that the Spirit of God has wrought in them, and also what He is working by and through them. Own the good and let alone the evil, only of course see that you are not identified with it. Our danger is to find fault, and disparage the person and work of another. A courteous manner towards superiors, loving respect and reverence for the aged, and kindly consideration for the poor and suffering, are beautiful features of Christian character; which, with our hearts on Christ and our hands full of work, we desire to see increasingly cultivated.
Honour, love and obey those who have the rule over you in spiritual matters, and shun the democratic spirit abroad which says, 'I am as good as another.' The truth is neither you nor I are as good as another. We ought to see the good in others and the evil in ourselves, and that is how we can esteem others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3).
Servants of the Lord. men of grace and gift, seem an especial target for busy tongues. Of course, servants of the grace and glory of Christ make mistakes. Who does not'? But, oh! in secret wash the servant's feet. Do not make too much of every blunder or mistake you think or say he has made. Remember you are localised and so can avoid much that a journeying evangelist or teacher is exposed to. He comes in contact with all characters. Unwillingly often, complaints are poured into his ear; his heart is made the depository of numerous griefs, sins, and sorrows amongst the saints. His advice and counsel are sought in almost every case of local and personal difficulty. Do be patient, gracious, and kind, therefore, even to an erring servant. The tendency is to find fault and magnify every trivial mistake, and crush and humble the servant. Depend upon it, he has trials you know nothing of; so rather cheer him on, extend warm sympathy and love. Pray much for him, and give now and again a cheering word and a kind deed.
Servants on the other hand, should be most careful in their conduct, words, and ways. More is justly expected from them than from the mass of the saints. But in these times the path is an extremely difficult one, and the relation of the servant to the saints oftentimes strained through lack of a little 'oil'. Grace and forbearance are needed on both sides, and the mutual cultivation of a spirit of love and brotherly fellowship. To all we would say. Avoid the continual fault-finding and criticising of each other's persons and ways now so unhappily prevalent in the church of God. We cannot afford to dispense with each other, even with the least esteemed (1 Cor. 12:21-23). It will generally be found that it is easier to criticise than to do the work on which we are passing our lynx eyes.
Probably the writer needs this word of exhortation more than the reader. May reader and writer pray for each other that Christ may be glorified in us both.
Regrettably, the message of the above article is still needed. We pray that its re-issue, around 100 years since it was first written, will be blessed by God to grant a prayerful regard for fellow-Christians and ban from our minds any narrow or mean thoughts that are un-Christlike.
Often those who spend their days in critical gossip at the back of meeting rooms and gospel halls as well as any other place of Christian worship are those who do the least work. A renowned American evangelist was once told regarding his style of gospel work, 'I don't like the way you do it.' to which he replied, 'What are you doing?' 'Oh! nothing.' 'Well, in that case', he replied, 'then 1 do not like the way you are not doing it!'
Let us spend no time in criticism, which is a form of self exaltation, but rather, in a spirit of self-judgment, let us set a good example of devoted work with spiritual power and steady continuance in good works. May the Lord grant us grace whereby we might serve Him acceptably.
Edwin N. Cross
The above article is now available in tract form from the publishers Chapter Two Fountain House, Conduit .Mews, London SE 18 7AP. Price 10 p. Ask for our current price list of publications and tracts.
From Truth & Testimony 2002