“The Family of God: Out to Win the Straying Brother”
September 10, 2017
The Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ezekiel 33: 7-11 / Psalm 119: 33 – 40
Romans 13: 8 – 14 / Matthew 18: 12 - 20
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
I used to belong to the Church Ministry called Special Projects Department. We held office in the former building that the school occupied in Malibay, Pasay. On one of the walls, I saw this reminder to the parents and to the teachers, “Discipline is something done for a child, not to a child.” Discipline is something done for the sake of the children, and it is not a sentence that you mete out to them. It is not to put down the children, but to lift them up and to build them up. It is also not for the sake of the one disciplining, so that they would not be bothered, irritated and their peace would not be disturbed or they have an outlet for anger. It is for the sake of the person receiving the discipline.
God gave laws, not so we don't irritate Him or disturb the peace on earth, but so that we would be like Him. Why does He say, “Give, and it shall be given unto you?” He is a giver. Why does He say, “Love your neighbor?” Because He is love. All because He wants us to be like Him. This is His original design, but some have failed to understand this law. Scriptures says, “Give me understanding so that I may observe your precepts and appreciate them.” Some did not understand His law so God did not just write it in stone; He did not just say it through the prophets; He sent His Word and showed man what it is. Still, some missed it and do not understand. They think and preach as if God doesn’t want some people to make it.
Some Christians think that Jews won’t go to heaven because they don’t believe in Jesus. They think that if they don’t end their prayer, “In Jesus Name,” they will not go to heaven. Romans 2:25-29 says, “25 For indeed circumcision (baptism)is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision(baptism) has become uncircumcision.(null and void) 26 So if the uncircumcised(unbaptized) man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision (being not baptized) be regarded as circumcision?(baptism) 27 And he who is physically uncircumcised(not baptized), if he keeps the Law,will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision (baptized) are a transgressor of the Law? 28 For he is not a Jew(a Christians) who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision(baptism) that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew (a Christia, a follower of Christ or a believer) who is one inwardly; and circumcision (baptism) is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (not by ceremony); and his praise is not from men, but from God.”
If we profess to be Christians and we don’t follow the essence of Christianity, will not somebody who is not a professing Christian and who obeys the principles of God judge us or condemn us? In the eyes of God, they are more believers and followers than those who went through ceremonies and riches. Was St. Paul belittling or disparaging Christianity? No, he preached Christ.
Christianity is not a religion, but it is a way of life. I am not endorsing any other religion; I like Christianity and I will preach it until the day I die, but it is not a religion, but a way of life. The phrase, “In Jesus Name,” is not a formula. It is a manner of life; it is a motive of the heart.
John 14:6 is misinterpreted as saying that only Christianity will get you to heaven. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” This is not preventive, but directive. It is not meant to deter people from entering, but it is to lead all to the Father by pointing the Way, Jesus Christ.
Acts 4:12 says, “There is no name under heaven given to man by which he can be saved.” Jesus is the Way. By this, does this mean that we end our prayers saying, “In Jesus Name?” Not necessarily, but pray in the Name of Jesus. It is by loving the person who is sick that you are praying for. In the Name of Jesus means in the spirit of Jesus because the Spirit of God is love and concern for all.
In the gospel today, Jesus said, “It is not your Father’s will that any of these little ones perish.” Peter said, “The Lord is patient; not slow and is not willing for any to perish, but that all should repent.” This is the heart of God.
Wisdom 1:13-14 says, “God did not make death and He does not delight in the death of the living.” In some translations, it is said, “He made the nations of the earth for health.” This includes the Arab nations, the Buddhist countries, the Confucius countries and even the Feng Shui countries. “He created all things that they may have their being, and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.” Some Christians believe that the Prince of this world is Satan. No, this is our Father’s world. This is God’s green earth and Satan has no authority here.
Wisdom 2:23-24, “For God created man to be immortal (imperishable; incorruptible) and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil's envy, death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it.” Death did not enter because of God, but through the devil’s envy.
The point of the gospel is not that the ninety-nine is not important. Everyone is important. God is not willing for any to perish, not even one. Ezekiel says that he takes no pleasure (does not delight, does not desire, does not want, does not like, does not will) in the death of the wicked, the sinful. Some Christians believe that it is God’s will that sinners die. God wants the sinners to change, not to die. This is the heart of God so our mission is correct a straying brother and to win and to restore them. It is not to condemn them. The will of God is for the wicked to be restored. Some people, thinking that they are the sinless and perfect and deserving ones, wants to eliminate the wicked in the face of the earth so that there will be peace.
We discipline because the will of God is not for one to perish so we go after him who is straying. The goal is not to gossip, but to restore. We do not post in social media to make known what you know of someone and make it viral. Contain the situation, go to the person and restore them.
Our Canons in CEC have a section that reveals about discipline, and Matthew 18 is the prescribed procedure. It starts off with this, “The goal of all discipline is restoration.” It is not to get rid of bad elements, unwanted scum, but for the sinner’s sake, for his restoration.
Ezekiel said that God has appointed us is to be watchmen and to win our brother because God does not delight in the death of the wicked, and we are to restore in the same Spirit, in the Name of Jesus and in the Name of love. Proverbs 13 says, “He who withholds the rod, hates his sons; but he who loves, disciplines diligently.” This is more of the literal rod; it means to correct. I would add, “He who hates discipline doesn’t understand it.” Discipline is for the sake of the one being disciplined. Proverbs 12 says, “ He who hates reproof is stupid,” because the goal is restoration. If a person who is being disciplined rejects it, he is denying himself the chance of being restored and being built up.
1Timothy1:5 says, “The goal of our instruction, of our teaching of our correction is love from a pure heart.” It is not to put people down; not to mark them; not to display their weakness to the whole world; but to correct them because of love from a pure heart. This is why we should carry out discipline with the right spirit.
Do not ever discipline in anger. Do not be reactive. In fact, Psalm 37 says to cease from anger; forsake wrath. Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let anger be put away from you; instead be tenderhearted.” Anger is one of the deeds of the flesh, and it is not the fruit of the Spirit. In fact, the fruit of the Spirit is contrary to being angry. I don’t understand why that, in certain Christian circles, anger is justified as if it is a godly virtue. They speak of righteous anger. Sometimes, we just get angry because we were irritated, and we are far from being like God, like Jesus. Jesus did get angry a few times, but His anger was not because He was disturbed, but He wants to see His disciples to be like Him.
We don’t have an angry God. Our God is kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. The fruit of His spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no outburst of anger, but has a control of Himself. Don’t picture God as always angry and always watching and waiting for us to make a mistake. Our Father encourages. He is tenderhearted. The essence of His law, of His correction, is love.
Not everyone who hears what I am saying today would agree because God’s love is “scandalously controversial.” It is eternally kind and misunderstood as short of justice. The love of God is eternally kind. His mercies never come to an end because it is new every morning. It is misunderstood as being short of justice, and giving license to sin, and to licentiousness.
Romans 2:4 say, “The kindness of God leads to repentance.” We repent not because we fear Him. We used to witness to people saying, “If you don’t accept Jesus, you will go to hell.” People get born-again not because of God’s love, but because of the thought of going to hell.” It is actually ignorance of this love that leads people astray.
There are “black sheeps” in the family, those who are problematic children who get into vices, and it is a symptom of a bereft of love at home. They are deficient in something. Deal with the root of the problem. Often times, they are looking for something – love; and they look for it elsewhere outside their family. People go astray because they are ignorant of God’s love and it is the root of their problems. Vices are crutches for them because they are deficient in the strength that they need in order to walk alone.
A person bereft of love is insecure. They lack affirmation; they lack security, and they are prone to weakness. Some encounter identity crisis and a person displays a certain character that parents did not supply. Attack the root of the problem. Romans 2 says, “Do not judge, rather, renew your minds and prove the will of God.” The will of God is to be slow to anger. God is abounding in mercy, and His patience is waiting for all to be restored.
Get rid of your biases. No “us and them.” We are the good; they are the bad ones. We are out to win anyone who is straying because everyone is precious in the sight of God, and we are all His children. Do not exclude the “anyone”, but win everyone. We are out to win our brother because it is the heart of God and because it is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.