Relationship stands among the very important things to God as far as the life of man is concerned. This is justified in the following:
Firstly, God gave the man dominion over all creatures, suggesting at least a relationship between the man and the lower creatures without which his stewardship would be impossible. Genesis 2:19, 20, records that, the man gave names to all the living creatures which could have only been possible by the man acquainting himself with these creatures.
Secondly, as if not enough, God went ahead to another level of relationship; the man was given a help meet for him, his equal and the only companion among the other creatures without which “the beautiful scenes and delightful employment of Eden would have failed to yield perfect happiness” (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 46)(Gen. 2:18, 21-24).
Finally, God established a relationship between man and Himself. First He created man in His own image (Gen 1:27). Second, He clothed them with “a covering of light and glory, such as the angels wear” (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets 45). Thirdly, He instituted the Sabbath, a means through which at least once in every week they will learn the lessons from nature about Him (Psalm 19). According to Ellen White, “God designed that the Sabbath shall direct the minds of men to the contemplation of His created works” (Patriarchs and Prophets 48). Finally, He gave man the opportunity to have perhaps daily personal encounter with Himself. That is “the holy pair were granted communion with their Maker, with no obscuring veil between” (Patriarch and Prophets, 45) (Gen 3:8-13).
We then come to the conclusion of three kinds of relationships at creation: first, between Man and the lower creatures, second, between man and man, and finally, between man and God. Relationship seems to pervade the kingdom of God, an evidence of how particular it is to Him. No wonder God took all the necessary measures to ensure that there could be perfect relationships.
The Unfortunate Thing
Unfortunately, as we all know, sin has affected these perfect relationships. Between man and the lower creatures, man and man, and man and God, the awful and disgusting stain of sin is obvious. Except for the plan of redemption, this condition would have been insurmountable (Gen 21:1-5).
Obviously, these three kinds of relationships are perfectly intertwined. A defect in one automatically affects the others. Evidence is seen in the fall. In the eating of the forbidden fruit man trampled upon the relationship between himself and the lower creatures by subjecting his reasoning power to one of them--the serpent--instead of maintaining the correct relationship. Adam and Eve also went beyond the diet apportioned him, and for this, a change in their diet was certain (i.e. they were deprived of the tree of life (Gen 3:22-23)). Consequently, man's obedience to the serpent (Satan) instead of God marred the perfect relationship between himself and God. He lost the glory of light that covered him and could no longer enjoy open communion with God (Gen 3:7-10). Without exception, the perfect relationship between the man and the woman was also tarnished. He started blaming the woman and the phrase “the woman you put here with me” (New International Version, Gen 3:12) suggest how detestable the woman was to him at that moment.
Focus of the Lesson
As already indicated, the plan of redemption has been God’s ultimate measure to restore perfect relationship among His kingdom as far as this earth is concerned. As there are three different levels of relationships, so are there measures for the restoration of each. While all these measures are important, this lesson focuses on only one of them and that is the measures put in place to protect the relationship between man and man. Specifically, we will be focusing on the idea of correction (i.e. restoring one who is at fault).
What the Bible Says
The Bible has a lot to say with regards to the kind of relationship that should exist among the children of God. In fact it presents this relationship as next to that between man and God (Matt 22:37-40) and sometimes even equates them (Matt 25:40, 45). Rom 12:9-20 and 13:1-8 are few among the many teachings of the Bible on the kind of relationship that should prevail in human society.
Having said that, the Bible also counsels us and presents instances showing us how to deal with a person at fault. In Gal 6:1, 2, we are taught the need to help rescue one from his or her faults. In Matt 18:15-17, we are also taught the processes through which our efforts can be appropriate and fruitful. Nathan's approach to David (1 Sam 12:1-14) and Jesus’ approach to Simon (Luke 7:37-47) and to Mary Magdalene (John 8:1-11) are practical examples. Also, in God’s reaction to Aaron and Miriam's reproach to Moses (Num. 12 ) as well as the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Num. 16) we see examples of how unfortunate it is to draw one's attention to his or her particular fault or wrongdoing through inappropriate means.
Yet it’s very unfortunate that amidst all these counsels from the Scriptures, Christians seems to be oblivious of how important this subject is to God. In the family, church, and work places are traces of the scars left by failure to apply the counsels given in the Bible. Perhaps this happens out of carelessness, ignorance, or, as said earlier, the inability to recognize how important God takes the issue. But the fact that God did not overlook Aaron's and Miriam’s wrongful approach when they tried to draw Moses’ attention to what they considered to be a mistake on his part should remind us of how God is very particular about this issue. Sometimes circumstances may make strict adherence to God’s requirement very inconvenient, yet “the history of God’s dealing with his people in all ages shows that he demands exact obedience” (Ellen White, Counsel for the Church 268).
How it Began
Just some few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to discuss with a fellow Adventist about the current uprising confusion regarding some of the doctrines of the church and how Adventism in Ghana, West Africa has been affected. As the discussion unfolded, he accused a very renowned Adventist Evangelist of being a major proponent of spiritualism in the church and added “the unfortunate thing is that the church in Ghana is not aware.” Having contemplated his assertion and considering the confidence from which he asserted, I asked myself, what is this brother going to do to help draw the Evangelist's attention to this and also save the innocent church members who may be lead astray by him if really his assertion about the Evangelist is true?
My intention is not to judge his assertion, but I cite it because I think the incidence here parallels with an incidence in the Bible in the book of Galatians 2:11-14. Also, there is a lesson that we can all draw from the courage of the hero Paul as far as this issue is concerned.
Paul’s rebuke to Peter (Gal 2:11-14)
In verse 11, Paul announces his rebuke to Peter for a wrong done, and in the subsequent verses he elaborated on what lead to the rebuke. “When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all” (Gal 2:14). Note the Phrases, “I oppose him to his face” and “I said to Peter in front of them all” (Gal 2:1, 4). Unquestionably, Paul conducted his rebuke appropriately. Since the wrong of Peter and his associates was committed in the open, from inspirational writings, it is clear that, it needed to be addressed openly. But we may ask where could, Paul, the preacher to the Gentiles and a newcomer among the Apostles, gathered the courage to draw Peter’s attention to his fault? Yes, Paul could have been intimidated by Peter’s status in the early church, but the opposite happened. The fact of the matter is that Paul’s secret for this open rebuke to Peter was not solely his courageousness, but also a result of his strict adherence to the truth (ver 14, 19-21). Hence, he dared not to apply any inappropriate means in showing Peter his error.
Zeal and Knowledge
In Roman 10:1-3, Paul drew the church's attention to the inability for the Jews to couple their zeal for God with knowledge of God and the negative results of not submitting themselves to God’s provision for righteousness. A similar mistake seems to be going on in Christendom and even the Adventist church. It seems that, while we have the zeal to heed to the first part of the counsel in Gal 6:1, we lack the knowledge as to how to conduct ourselves in the spirit of meekness in order not to be tempted, per Paul's instructions.
I see the same thing in the scenario given previously. Having identified the fault of this renowned Evangelist, was this brother going to stop his slanderous approach and, like Paul, find a better approach and address the issue in a way that could restore both the victim and the innocent church members who could be lead astray by him?
What to Learn from Paul
Aside from Paul's passion for spreading the gospel, it is obvious that he was also particular about how and when to preach the gospel (1Cor 9:19-27). With such a secret, he was ever ready to risk his life preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, preaching before Kings and emperors, and doing it with the meekness of spirit that could restore Peter and all those connected with him from his fault.
Perhaps he learned it from our lord Jesus Christ. It is obvious that Jesus knew of His mission on earth and how to go about it (John 9:10). In his encounter with the Samaritan woman, in His reaction to the sickness and death of Lazarus, in all His teachings and miracles, it is clear that He was very particular about how to conduct Himself in order to always communicate the right message to the people. It is quiet unfortunate that, even though He is the greatest teacher the world has ever known, his methods did not always yield the good results (John 6:60, 66).
Where are the Pauls?
Fellow-in-Christ, in order to be successful in our Christian life we need to acknowledge that zeal is one thing and knowledge is another thing, yet they are inseparable. It is the desire of God that we combine zeal with knowledge. God looks for people like Paul who will not be willing to spread people’s mistakes to everyone except the victims themselves. He looks for sons and daughters who, like Paul, for the love for the truth will risk everything--even life--to draw people’s attention to their faults yet with knowledge (i.e. in the best possible manner) in other not to be mistaken. This is the kind of people that God needs in His church as he restores the perfect relationship that has been marred by sin. Of course there are people who may still prove stubborn in the face of our restoration measures. This may seem unthinkable, yet we are cautioned to be careful in order not to be tempted. Any extra effort should be “only in the Lord” (King James Version, 1 Cor 7:39). I’m inviting you today to join the procession of the Pauls.