When Cain's sacrifice was rejected by God we are told that "Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell." In this case the LORD held a conversation with Cain and asked him, "Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?" Of course God knew the answer, but He was giving Cain an opportunity to answer for himself. Either Cain refused to answer God or else his answer is not recorded. The LORD continued speaking kindly to Cain and said, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." God was giving Cain an opportunity to change. But we do not like to change. Cain did not want to change. We would think that if the LORD spoke to us that surely we would change, but Cain did not.
One of the characteristics of being wrong is being angry. Cain did not want to change. His defense was to be angry. Jonah was angry. God asked Jonah "Doest thou well to be angry? Jonah replied quite boldly to God, "I do well to be angry, even unto death." We might add that Jonah's anger was more deep seated than merely the loss of shade from the gourd. Paul was angry. He was "not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which Stephen spake." Rather than follow the wise teachings of Stephen, Paul was so angry that he cast his vote to kill Stephen, and by his own admission, later said concerning the Christians, that "he was exceedingly mad against them."
Human nature has not changed. These examples were written for our learning that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. When we find that we disagree with someone and we feel anger welling up within us, it should tell us to stop and examine ourselves. Do we do well to be angry? We usually can convince ourselves like Jonah did that "we do well to be angry" but we might be surprised to find that we are wrong to be so angry. If we are in the right, there is no need to be angry. Instead of being angry, we should feel pity and compassion for our opponent who is wrong. Since we are in the right and they are wrong, they need our help, not our anger. If it should turn out that we are in the wrong, how foolish to have been both angry and wrong!
Wouldn't it be wonderful if people really listened and changed? Wouldn't it be grand if all followed the request of the Lord when he said, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Here God is asking us to sit down and to be reasonable when we are wrong, and certainly we should be this way when we are correct. This is why Paul exhorts us saying, "The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient in meekness, instructing those that oppose themselves."
We need to remember this when we are trying to teach the truth to those who have held wrong doctrine all their lives. People do not change easily or quickly. Some never change. Whether they change or not, we must be gentle, patient and meek. When we are trying to teach someone that their soul is mortal, we need to be patient for they have always believed otherwise and do not unlearn wrong things quickly or easily. We need to keep on trying to teach them even though they oppose themselves We keep hoping "Peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth."
If we adopt this principle with those who are outside the household of faith, then certainly we should be this way with those that are inside. We need to be extra loving, extra patient with those for whom Christ died. There is no room for anger here. If they are wrong we pray that God will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. If they refuse to change then we pray that God will be merciful to them and forgive them. It is certain that we also are going to need the mercy of God or we are lost. Who is to say that their wrong is worse than some sin we have committed. We are not without sin.
Have we ever thought that there is a limit to God's mercy? We sometimes talk about how unlimited His mercy is. We often quote the Psalm "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us." While this is true, nevertheless the mercy of God is definitely limited. What is the limit of God's mercy? Jesus tells us. He says, "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven." This means we are going to receive mercy only if we have been merciful; we are going to be forgiven only if we have forgiven, so each one of us is placing a limit on the mercy God is going to give us by the mercy we give to others."
"Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful."
Brother Robert Lloyd