The Brother versus the Watchman
One thing I believed I have learned, and try to implement, is that there is one Lord, and Christians live and die before him. Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead, and everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. Peter preached just this message to the household of Cornelius. I try and practice this belief by playing the role of the Brother and not the Watchman.
The watchman is a guard. He guards against what he considers moral failure. Since every action is a practice in morality, every action must meet the nuanced standard he has created. Anyone who fails received a chastisement or a grumbling remark. The watchman creeps up in scripture in a few different ways. In Romans, it is the hard-hearted and impenitent hypocrite who judges others but fails to live up to the same standard. To him Paul says,
“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” (Romans 2:1)
You can hear the hardness of their hearts in Paul’s words. The watchman is more concerned with setting people straight than he is his own relationship with Jesus.
James gives us another picture of the watchman. In this case, suffering Christians turn their fatigue into accusations against their church family. Frustrated by what’s happening in their own lives they grow impatient and lash out at others. James responds to this by saying,
“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” (James 5:7-9)
In this case the watchman is restless. His own circumstances drive him to lash at others rather than resting in the comfort of Jesus and his compatriots.
The watchman is also the prominent figure in Jesus’ parable of the log and the speck in Luke 6:41-42. He is always looking for even the most minor infractions of others. Lack of attention to his own spiritual condition has distorted the watchman’s perspective. He views minor transgressions as huge failures instead of seeing them for what they are, tiny specks.
In line with these, the watchman has forgotten two major things. He has forgotten that there is only one Lord and that his job is to be a brother and not a guard.
A Christian’s first concern is to follow Jesus. Having the same righteous character as Jesus takes diligence and devotion. It’s only through our commitment to live righteously like Jesus that we become well enough to help our brothers. As Jesus says,
“…first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:42c)
Three times Jesus refers to the one who needs correction as ἀδελφοῦ σου, “your brother.” This emphasis reveals how we should see others who need correction. They are our brothers and sisters. We treat them as we would our family. This is the way of the Brother. The brother takes the same care Jesus had with his disciples.
One final scripture demonstrates the difference between the Brother and the Watchman. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. In this parable, a Pharisee and a Tax Collector go up to the Temple during public prayer time. The Pharisee judges himself a righteous man and compares himself to others he has judged to be lesser men. The tax collector in Jesus’ parable humbles himself before God. He is mindful of the wide chasm between his stature and that of God. About these men Jesus says,
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14b)
The Pharisee acts as the Watchman as he doles out judgment upon him who should be enjoyed as a fellow believer. In contrast, the Brother acknowledges his need for mercy and speaks to God with humility.
Anyone can become the Watchman. Human beings are great at comparing ourselves with others, pointing out another’s faults, and heaping undue blame on others to hide our own inner anxiety. Unfortunately, that has been me more times than I would like to admit. It’s easy for human beings to lie to ourselves and convince ourselves we have another’s best interest at heart. The Watchman is always ready to make excuses. Standing before God, however, the façade is washed away and our true intentions are known.
Don’t be the Watchman, be the Brother.