Verbal Self-Defense

1. Rebuking Sin

Why defend yourself? Because IGNORANCE IS AN EXCUSE for other people continuing to do wrong. "If ye were blind, you should have no sin. But now you say: We see. Therefore your sin REMAINS" (John 9:41). "If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin. But now, they have NO CLOAK for their sin" (John 15:22).

But what is the difference between meddling in other people's business (Pr. 26:17) and rebuking other people's sins (Matt. 18:16-18)? In other words, when should you rebuke sin and when should you mind your own business?

There are sins that are none of your business. "Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done THEE no harm" (Pr. 3:30). "Who are you to judge ANOTHER MAN'S SERVANT?" (Rom. 14:4). Proverbs 20:3 says, "It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be MEDDLING" (KJV & RSV). "He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife NOT BELONGING TO HIM, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears" (Pr. 26:17). When Christ was asked to arbitrate a dispute, he said, "Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?" (Luke 12:14). When Peter enquired about the personal future of John, Christ said, "If I will that he tarry till I come, IS THAT YOUR BUSINESS? Follow thou me" (John 21:22; KJV & Phi.).The definition of meddling is giving unwanted help and advice when you have no right.

According to Leviticus 19:17, "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, LEST YOU BEAR SIN because of him." Verbal self defense protects a person from bearing the responsibility for another person's sin. But before you have a right to say anything or rebuke, someone must SIN AGAINST YOU.

According to Matthew 18:15-18, "if thy brother shall trespass AGAINST THEE, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." But what if he keeps on sinning and won't repent? "After the first and second admonition reject" (Titus 3) so we don't need to wear ourselves out or wear them out by verbal criticism. Just twice and then reject, unless they repent. Even if "thy brother ... trespass AGAINST THEE seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4). As a last resort, Paul said, "Them that sin, rebuke before all" (1 Tim. 5:20). If you don't rebuke, you become responsible for his sin. But "he who converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (James 5:20).

2. Overlooking Sin

When should you overlook the sins of other people? When you yourself are guilty of the same crime. Christ said in Matthew 7:1-5: "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." Our Lord here brings up an important principle that if we want tolerance, we must give tolerance to the same degree. To be strict or to be lenient is a choice. This includes what we choose to criticize as well as what we choose to punish, when our rights have been violated. We will "reap what we sow" in either case. "Blessed are the MERCIFUL; for they shall obtain mercy" (Matt. 5:7). Also Proverbs 12:16 says, "A fool shows his annoyance the same day, but one who OVERLOOKS an insult is prudent" or who "HIDETH SHAME." He "hath not dealt with us after our sins (he has not rebuked them), nor rewarded us according to our iniquities" (he has not punished them) [Ps. 103:10]. Be tolerant to the same degree you want tolerance yourself. Just as our Messiah, and even other humans, have suffered SILENTLY because of our sins, so each of us should follow this example and sometimes suffer SILENTLY due to other people's sins against us. Isaiah 53:7 says, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet HE OPENED NOT HIS MOUTH (in rebuke): he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is DUMB (silent), so HE OPENED NOT HIS MOUTH (in rebuke). Then Acts 8:33 says, "In his humiliation he was deprived of justice." (NIV). He was "guilty" because of our guilt, so didn't defend himself.

3. Warning the Nation

In Ezekiel 33:2-9 God says: "When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: if when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he BLOW the trumpet, and WARN the people; then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and BLOW NOT the trumpet, and the people be NOT WARNED; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and WARN them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost NOT SPEAK to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou WARN the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul." In Ezekiel 3:17-21 God says: "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and GIVE THEM WARNING from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou GIVEST HIM NOT WARNING, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou WARN the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die: because thou hast NOT GIVEN HIM WARNING, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I REQUIRE AT THINE HAND. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul." Responsibility for any problem = Knowledge of that problem x Control over that problem.

4. Overlooking National Sin

Moses urged God to "LOOK NOT unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin, Lest ... (enemies say) the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he hath brought them out to slay them." (Deut. 9:27-28). "This ignorance God OVERLOOKED" (Acts 17:30). If God were to rebuke us for all of our sins, we would not survive.