Our greatest desire for those we love should be that they be saved eternally. Paul said of his people: "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved" (Rom. 10:1). He even said: "For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:3). With that kind of fervent desire, Paul lived in such a manner as to try to accomplish their salvation. He reasoned with them, he besought them, he tried to stir them up to a kind of jealousy that would move them to receive Christ in obedience and be saved (Rom. 11:14). His own manner of life was ever before them as an example of unpretended devotion to Christ. This is sensible behavior, not only because it is essential to one's own salvation, but also because it is the proper way to convert others. It is an example that we should imitate.
Sometimes emotions can cause us to act irrationally regarding those we love. Sometimes we may pretend that all is well with their souls even though they are not obedient to God. Sometimes people quit serving the Lord aright because their obedience condemns the manner of life of someone they love. Such people don't consider that losing their own soul is not going to lead the lost to salvation. It is natural to want to be with those we love, but we cannot let immediate desires overcome the most important desire of all -- their salvation. It is far better to be estranged for a time in order to be with them eternally in heaven than to be with them in their lost condition now and to be together with them in eternal punishment. Do we not sometimes inflict pain of punishment and discipline upon our children in order to bring goodness and happiness to their lives? "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Heb. 12:11).
What can we do for those we love? We want to do them the greatest good that we can -- what is best for them. First, we can BE what WE ought to be in obedience to God, for without this, other efforts lose their strength. Then we can treat them with lovingkindness. We can talk to them about the Will of God and the importance of eternal things. We can encourage them to become children of God. We can help them to correct misconceptions concerning the Scriptures. If they stumble, we can help them to recover. If they go astray, we can turn them to the Lord again. If they stubbornly persist in wrongdoing, we can rebuke them firmly. If they continue to resist the truth, we can distance ourselves from them (have no company with them) to the end that they may be ashamed. We can pray earnestly for them that they may see their error and turn again in repentance. If they repent, we can receive them again in brotherly love and rejoicing. We can keep company with them once again and work together and study together and pray together. We can look forward together to the eternal hope of glory. We can worship God together, rejoicing in our mutual salvation as we place our hope and trust in God.
By Gilbert Alexander.
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