When a revival of true godliness in our own lives does not have the impact on our fellow believers that we want, how should we respond?
The easy way is to invoke the spirit of the Old Testament prophets and of Revelation 3:14–17—to reprove, reproach, and rebuke. There is something appealing, after all, about assuming the prophetic voice, about standing alone against corruption and pointing God’s people to the right path. We all want to be the hero of the story.
The more difficult way would be to follow in the footsteps of the apostle Paul. He called every Christian to mutual submission: “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21). He wanted God’s people to be clothed with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” and told the early believers to “bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col. 3:12–14, NIV).
Mutual submission—bearing and forbearing—is not heroic. But it is essential. As Christ faced the ultimate crisis of the cross, He was not thinking about Himself; instead He was concerned about us, wanting His followers to be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:21). The perfect unity that God desires will be achieved more readily through compassion and kindness than through condemnation.
At times, a Christian needs to stand boldly against sin and error. But a true revival will unite rather than divide—it will make us more at one with each other, as well as with our Savior.