Key Thought: God still walks in the garden asking, first, “Where art thou?” and, secondly, “Where is Abel, thy brother?” To answer these two questions aright, is to exercise oneself to have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man.
At the end of every day, before we close the door upon it, we should review our attitude towards God, and allow its incidents to pass beneath the searching scrutiny of His loving eye; and in this review we should be specially careful to recall our attitude towards our fellows. Indeed, if we are true to God’s inner voice, we shall be almost sure to hear Him speak about about our brother. In the cool of the day, God still walks in the garden asking, first, “Where art thou?” and, secondly, “Where is Abel, thy brother?” To answer these two questions aright, is to exercise oneself to have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man.
Where is Abel, thy brother? Hast thou helped or hindered him? Hast thou stabbed him with the secret stiletto of malice and envy? Hast thou pushed him over the precipice to which he was tottering? Hast thou put a stumbling block in his way, over which he may have fallen to his grievous hurt? Hast thou left him in the cold of an unforgiving spirit, and the night-frost of neglect? Is his blood crying against thee? Is he accusing thee of having thrust him to the ground, and made his way harder, and bolted the door against his return? Is he lamenting that former friends and acquaintances stand aloof because thou hast poisoned their minds against him? Where is he? Outside the door which thou hast locked; drifting in the boat to which thou hast forced him; lying cold and still upon the ground where thy unbrotherly fist has flung him? Thou wast his keeper. His interests were entrusted to thee. Thou wast to do for him as for thyself. Thou must fetch him. Leave thy gift, go and be reconciled to him, undo the wrong so far as thou canst, and bring him with thee out of the cold night air, that thou and he may stand together in the light and warmth of the Father’s Home.
God Cares More about Our Relationships Than Our Prayers
Evidently God cares more about our relation to our brother than our prayers to Himself. The Master said that if when we reached the altar, we remembered that our brother had something against us, we were to leave our gift, find him out, and make it right with him before returning to offer the gift. This is the difficult point. It is not so hard to go to a man when he has wronged as; it is very hard when we have wronged him. When our brother has just cause for complaint because of the harshness with which we have spoken to him, the rough manner in which we have corrected him, the injury which he has suffered through our carelessness or willfulness, it needs much of the grace of God to humble ourselves to extract the poison from the wound, to confess our sin, and to refuse anything short of clear forgiveness to specific confession. Only then can we offer acceptable prayer. Our attitude towards God is entirely determined by our attitude towards man. Any cloud between our brother and ourselves will exclude the face of our Father in Heaven.
In my own life I have often noticed that though confession has been extorted from me by a sense of duty, and I have compelled myself to seek my brother’s pardon, yet afterwards there has been a sense of distance, of stand-off, of haughty and chilly repulsion. It is as though one has said: “I did what I had to do, but I want you to understand that there can be no intimate relations between us—the less we have to do with one another the better.” But this is not the love of God. This is the act of the frigid exterior, whilst the heart is absent. It is like the children of Israel who honored God with their lips, whilst their heart was far from Him. We must go further. We must be willing to love the man we have wronged; to be kind and gentle and tender in restoring him; to behave towards him with the and gentleness of Christ; to insist on our act of wrong being wiped out by acts of loving unselﬁshness and helpfulness.
With One Who Has Wronged Us
But there is another side. There is the case of the man who has wronged us, and who is probably justifying the wrong by enumerating all the mistakes and failures on our part which in his judgment justiﬁed him; the man who in hurting us has hurt himself the most; who, in defrauding us, has defrauded his heart of peace, and his mind of content; whose rough words and unjust deeds, like the boomerang of the savage, are coming home to himself to roost. How natural it is to want to leave such a man alone! We throw him the price he has demanded, and wrap our garments close around us going our way. We leave him, to use a common expression, “to stew in his own fat!” Why should we trouble further? No, says Christ, there must be a salvage. This matter must not be allowed to remain thus. Do not wait for thy brother to come to a better mind, do not wait for him to come and confess his fault, but if thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.
This is not what we would do naturally. We do not care to meet him. We turn down a side street if we see him coming. We avoid him if we see him come into the same meeting or drawing-room. And as to telling him his fault, we advertise it from the housetop, we tell our conﬁdential friend, with a caution to say nothing about it We ask the opinion of all and sundry as to what they would advise us to do, not that we really want to know, but because the inquiry is some kind of justiﬁcation of the full statement of our wrong. This will not do: the Master says, “Thou must tell thy brother between thee and him alone”
Gaining A Brother
Again our evil nature asserts itself. We avail ourselves of Christ’s command, and ﬁnd compensation in the opportunity of telling our brother a bit of our mind. To use our own expression, “we have a straight talk with him.” But really we gratify our worst self as we think we are doing our Lord’s behest. We forget that He said we were to try to gain our brother. In other words we must tell him his fault so tenderly, and lovingly, and pleadingly, that he will see it in its native deformity, see it as God sees it, see it with shame and tears, see it to confess it, see it to put it away, and come back to our heart. Thus to have been sinned against will prove a precious occasion for winning the sinner. Thus the brotherly talk will issue in stirring the smoldering embers of a brother’s love, until they burn again with the old warmth.
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you with all malice, and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. Be ye therefore imitators of God as dear children. Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect, that is, fill up the full measure of your possibilities of showing love.
Be Quick to Make Things Right
How sadly those words of Jesus must have rung through the woman’s heart, when He said, “Go, call thy husband, and come hither?” He knew that it was impossible. Her husband had drifted away from her home, and perhaps from the village, and was roaming the world, desolate and outcast Call him! Yes, she might, but he would never hear, never respond, never come again. It is happier for us. Those that we have wronged are probably within our reach, we can seek their side ; those who have wronged us are not far away, we can go to them. But be quick. The night is falling, the sun is hasting to go down upon your wrath: behold, now is the accepted time. Forgive, as you would be forgiven. Bless, as you would be blessed. Restore, as you would be restored.
Taken From the Record of Christian Work, Vol. 18, (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1899), pp. 294-296.