“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.” (1 John 5:16, ESV)
Over the last couple of weeks we looked at how Christianity was originally called The Way; and how finding faith in Jesus is Getting in the Way. We also saw that we don’t, though our words or actions, want to place obstacles in the way of other believers (or non-believers!). In this final post in the series, I’d like us to consider how we should get in the way of other believers.
I would, however, like to issue a caveat. It is, unfortunately, not uncommon in the Christian world for some believers to be nosy, wanting the dirt on anyone and everyone. They insert themselves into people’s lives to fuel their gossip. They use other people’s dirty laundry to justify themselves. They are judgmental and deceiving themselves about their own righteousness. I am NOT condoning these attitudes or actions. But on occasion, we need to allow our love for our brothers and sisters to manifest itself by placing ourselves between them and God in intercession, and by placing ourselves between them and sin.
1 John 5:16 is an imperative for all Christians. It is not just for pastors and priests or other spiritual giants. When we see a brother or sister sin, we are obliged by the love of God to pray for them and their forgiveness. And God will forgive and give life.
This verse may seem confusing when coming upon it for the first (or 41st!) time. It is in the comments about “sin that leads to death” and the “sin not leading to death. The Pulpit Commentary holds the “sin that leads to death” refers to “willful and obstinate rejection of God’s grace and persistence in unrepented sin.” This is the one and only exclusion clause in this verse. If that condition is not met, we are unequivocally under obligation to intercede and pray for them.
It reminds me of Balaam’s donkey. The donkey put himself in harms way to try to warn Balaam that he was about to be killed for his sin. He interceded for Balaam, though not through prayer.
I think of David, Nabal and Abigail. You can read the whole story in 1 Samuel 25. David sent men to speak with Nabal. They mentioned how they took care of Nabal’s shepherd and their sheep, protecting them when necessary, and came with one request. David asked, “Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.” He didn’t ask for first service. He didn’t ask for a bottomless Buffet. He wanted a little food and water for his men.
When Abigail saw how they were mistreated she placed herself between Nabal and David. She interceded. Nabal’s obstinance raised the ire of David and his men, who all strapped on swords and readied themselves for battle. Abigail prepared a huge feast and brought it to intercept, and hopefully placate, his anger. Her humility and her fast thinking averted a slaughter of every male in Nabal’s house.
Over the last few weeks we have been led to “Get in the way;” we’ve been told to get out of the way; and now once again we are being led to get in the way again. We Get in the way first for ourselves. For our salvation. For our peace. Then through a growing maturity we learn to order our lives and words to avoid “getting in the way” of other believers. And next we come to get in the way again. We get in the way to pray and intercede, and we get in the way to try to keep our brothers and sisters in the Way.
As always, I am a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week!
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