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First of all, I saw the "pastoral advice" exclusion in the FAQ. I do have a certain situation on my hands, but what I want is not that you tell me what to do, but that you suggest Bible passages related to the situation. I hope that is sufficiently different to make the question on-topic.


A close relative, I'll call him A, sent me a Skype message:

[Our relative] B is in hospital with pneumonia.

You should scold [our relative] C. She has had a cold since Easter, and I told her to take care of it, but she didn't. Now she infected B.

I protested that I am not scolding anybody, and we started a lengthy discussion in which it became clear that he sees scolding a sick person for being sick and blaming them for infecting further family members as proper behavior and a display of care for both B and C. I think that it is a mean thing to do, and besides, he is in no position to scold B in any way (she is one generation older than him).

I am an atheist and don't know the Bible except for the plot of a few biblical events. A believes in God, but does not participate in organized religion. He reads the Bible by himself.

I hope that there are some Bible passages which relate to this situation. I would like to suggest such passages to A for reading in the hope that, as he trusts the Bible for moral guidance, such reading will help him recognize that a sick person needs help, not judgement and blame.

Can you recommend some such passages?


Explanation of why I think A's behavior is not constructive and his view of the situation shows lack of care. You don't have to read this long part if you already agree that the scolding would have been inappropriate.

Put yourself in C's shoes. You have been having colds and healing them since before A was born. Six weeks ago, he says to you "you are sick, see that you get it healed". Thanks, Captain Obvious. You probably go on taking care of yourself the best you can, the same way if nobody had told you that you need to do something about being sick.

Now B is sick. And A comes along and tells C "It is all your fault! Had you listened to me and healed your cold, B wouldn't be in hospital now!" What's wrong with that?

  1. There is no way this is going to change anything in C's future behavior when she is sick again. If she was sloppy in looking after herself, she either knows it, or believes she did everything possible. If she believes she did everything, she will just feel indignant at the unjust accusation and continue doing what she believes best. If she believes she made mistakes, she is going to avoid them next time anyway, because she is a reasonable human being who loves B too, and is capable of learning from her mistakes without the need for somebody else to tell her so.

  2. It will cause C to resent the person who scolds her. She is not too dumb to know that she might have passed her germs. If she thinks she could have prevented it, she already feels guilt herself, and hearing the accusation will only make her feel miserable without changing her beliefs about the situation, only giving her a negative self-image and the unpleasant feeling of being attacked by A. If she thinks she could not have prevented it, she will not accept the blame, but become justifiably angry at being attacked unfairly. If A scolds her, she will resent him for the scolding. If I scold her, she will resent me for the scolding and A for telling me that she was the cause of B's illness. So his reaction shows that he is unconcerned with C's feelings, or with the negative effects such drama will have on a family which already has to deal with two sick members. And doesn't realize that there will be no positive consequences which could make up for the negative ones.

  3. A is being very arrogant and condescending here. First, it is not sure that B indeed infected C. As an answer said, a cold is mostly viral and a pneumonia is probably bacteria-caused. Second, if she did, it is not sure that she could have prevented it if she had done something differently. Third, if she was the germ source and she could have prevented it, it is not sure that A's advice contained just the action she had to do to prevent it. In fact, knowing him, I doubt that he gave any specific advice what to do. He saw her sick, and told her "do something about it!" Now he thinks that her "disobedience" caused a problem and wants somebody to tell her that she should do as she's told next time. But in reality, he is not entitled to order her around. Also he is not all-knowing (and has no medical qualification), so his conviction that B passed the infection, and that his advice, whatever it was, would have prevented it, is out of place. He just assumes that all his ideas are correct, and therefore C should always listen to him.

  4. Why doesn't he scold B himself but orders me to do it? There is a malicious explanation here, but I don't believe it, because he is not the scheming type. He says that he knows that she won't listen to his advice and there is no point in him telling it, but it must be told. I think she doesn't listen to him because what he calls "advice" is not advice, it consists either of trivial non-actionable orders ("Get this cold healed!"), or of blaming and other kinds of attack. If I would scold her the way he tells me to, she will not "listen" to me this time, but her resentment will hurt my relationship to her and she may stop trusting me in the future if I attack her this time. So, he is not only again showing that he likes to order people around (me), but also mindless of the family connections which will be damaged if I do what he says, which is again the opposite of caring for the family.

  5. He shows that he did not consider my feelings either. After I read the first sentence, I was shocked by the sudden bad news, and my thoughts were mostly of the kind "How serious it is? I want to know more about C's condition and prognosis. Should I maybe damn my deadlines and run to the airport and buy the first available ticket no matter how much it costs?". And I think that such a reaction is easy to predict, and if his concern had been either about my reaction or about C's current state, he would have written details about her condition. Instead, he was preoccupied with assigning blame.

This is not the first time A has shown aggresiveness when kindness would have appropriate. But he is the way he is, and we cannot change his personality. Telling him "You have to become an empathetic person" is just as inconsiderate, and even more futile, than telling B to heal her cold. We are family, we love him the way he is, and deal with his barbs the best we can.

But there are moments when people in the family are under too much stress to be able to deal well with the discord he creates, and I am afraid this can have lasting consequences. Besides, it can hit the wrong person. So I thought that I might prevent trouble if I can convince him to curb his behavior in the most fragile moments. He will probably continue to believe that B is to blame for not doing what he told her, and that he has the right to scold her. But just because he has poor social skills, it doesn't mean he doesn't want to be kind, just that he doesn't know how. If I can point out to him that, by the teachings of the Bible, he should not be judging other people, and he should be extending support to people in need regardless of whether he thinks they are a good or bad person (and I think that the Bible teaches both these things), he may hold back next time.

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I don't think there are any passages that really speak to this kind of situation. It's a conscientious thing, not really a moral issue. –  AJ Henderson May 24 at 21:03
    
Why wouldn't infecting someone in hospital be deserving of a scolding? Is scolding too strong a word? How about a telling off? A reminder to be more careful? –  curiousdannii May 25 at 6:40
    
@curiousdannii I added a long explanation of why I think why scolding would have been wrong in this situation. –  rumtscho May 25 at 11:43
    
@AJHenderson Wha?!?! I couldn't disagree with you more strongly! –  bruised reed May 25 at 13:56
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4 Answers 4

It's conceivable that even to you as an atheist, God has graciously bestowed more wisdom than your close relative A. From your description, I believe you have the correct judgement about the situation - as the Apostle Paul instructed his disciple Timothy:

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, ...older women as mothers,... - 1 Timothy 5:1-2 ESV

Clearly this passage is directly relevant to your situation, but to my mind, the best bible passage that fits your description is the part of the bible that describes what Christian love should look like. In many, many places in the bible, we are strongly exhorted (and even commanded!) to "love one another", "love our neighbour as ourself" and even "love your enemy". Any Christian should be aware of the importance of this. Sometimes however, we may get set in our own ways and forget how to do this practically ("a man's way seems right to himself, but it only leads to death"). In these instances, it can be very helpful to reflect on this:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful*; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a ESV

*this part has been alternately rendered as "[love] keeps no record of wrongs" (NIV)

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Well, first of all, a cold is caused by a virus, and goes away in about 2 weeks if you treat it, and about 14 days if you don't. Cold viruses also do not cause Pneumonia, though there are viruses that do. Since it has been 6 weeks since Easter Sunday, what C has is probably not a cold, but perhaps a rather more serious condition--like pneumonia--and it would be a kindly act to urge C to get medical attention for the sake of her own health.

Did C infect B? This would be difficult to prove, even with access to the appropriate lab results from both, and even if the same organism caused the pneumonia in B and the cough in C, this is not enough information to prove that C infected B, instead of B infecting C, or both B and C being infected by someone else.

Turning to the question, while there are passages in the Bible about not judging other people in their misery, but in my view, I'm not sure they apply here. Other passages in the bible which us to help one others--Isaiah 41:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 come to mind--and I think these are much more applicable, as I would see it a help to C to urge her to seek medical attention of a cough which has persisted for six weeks.

In my view, A merely chose an unfortunately awkward way to make a good suggestion.

Edit: After I read the additional information several times, and still couldn't make sense of it, I concluded that the A's, B's, and C's were conflated, so I attempted to straighten them out. But the additional explanation, does substantially change my answer. I'm still of the opinion that A lacks tact, diplomacy, or other "people skills". I also think he choosing the wrong approach in suggesting "scolding". But because of that, this might be a place where you modify his "scolding" to "suggeting" or "urging", and achieve something (getting C to consult a medical professional) that he might not be able to.

And I still think that it is reasonable, proper, and an act of Christian Charity to urge C to seek attention for her cough. I've had the experience to know of people who have had a chronic cough who were unaware of how often they coughed, and grossly underestimated the frequency, and therefore did not have a realistic attitude about what the frequency said about the threats to their own health, so I'm not persuaded that C is as aware of her circumstances as you assert.

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Actually, Solomon has a lot to say about wrath, anger, words and wisdom, all in one chapter of Proverbs. The Fear of the Lord seems to be the key.

Some excerpts from Proverbs 15 (KJV):

1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

2 The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.

3 The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.

33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.

I think if there is change in him firstly, then there would be change in his way of handling certain things. However, before you minister to him, I would advise you to have more tact, lest his wrath be upon you as well! I think the three verses would be of good use to you. Keep them in mind when you are talking to A.

10 Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.

So there is Solomon telling you that confrontation is not advisable. I think the pride of Lucifer is strong in him, which is probably why he would not go and counsel B himself (or go to organised religion). I doubt he is afraid of reproach but more like, he hates being wrong.

I think a short verse that would speak to you and A is from Solomon,

Proverbs 11:17 (KJV)

The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.

Having said that, there are many verses that talk about kindness

Ephesians 4:32 (KJV)

32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Yep, A definitely needs to soften his heart. From the various verses below, you'd get a general idea that kindness actually has no other reason except for Christ did it for us, too. We don't really need a logical reason to love and be kind, just do it.

1 John 4:20-21 (KJV)

20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Heh, this one's pretty strong so you'd need to take a lot of care giving A this one. This is akin to saying A does not love God. And you'd be calling him a liar, obviously. The Word of God is a double-edged sword, mercy be upon us all.

Zechariah 7:9-10 (KJV)

9 Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:

10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.

and why we shouldn't judge people. I think Matthew 7 is the best one,

New King James Version (NKJV)

Do Not Judge

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7 here is saying this very simple concept - Do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you. Also, if we are judgemental, if we have a plank in our eyes (a certain perception) we would not be able to advise our brethren correctly (nor do we have the right to). That is because our vision is obscured and we keep seeing what is not right rather then what can be better. We have to change our mindset before we give other people directions.

Instead of out-rightly giving A a verse, maybe you could ask A about king Darius in the book of Zechariah ;)

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Having understood your question, I must preface the answer; Acts 10;34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of truth I perceive that God is no respercter of persons:

Galatians 6;1

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in fault, ye which which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Job 11;4-6

For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes. But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee; And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! Know therefore, that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.

Luke 6;37

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive and ye shall be forgiven;

Luke 6; 40

The disciple is not above his master: but everyone that is perfect shall be as his master.

Psalms 26;11 But as for me I will walk in mine integrity, redeem me, and be merciful unto me.

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Throwing out a bunch of verses without any context or explanation of how they relate to a question is not helpful. Furthermore some of the verses you cite here are not directly applicable to the OPs question and trying to shoehorn them into service out of context like this only promotes missuse of scripture. The OP would be ill advised to use these without any further instruction on iterpretation and application. –  Caleb May 25 at 4:37
    
I understood the core question to be about being judgemental and that the passages were to be read. If so added context would be seen. Do you see something else in the request? –  V. Rollins May 25 at 7:19
    
Which verse you quote actually teaches how to be kind and not to judge? The verses you quote are all the judging and wisdom verses. The OP doesn't want to go and correct or discipline A but to show A some verses on how to be kind and NOT judge someone because A is known to adhere to the Bible's teaching. Your answer is irrelevant, with or without context. I have flagged your answer. –  Zoe May 25 at 17:57
    
None of the verses I cite imply or suggest judging,in fact, they discourage judging and suggest compassion. However, you apparently have a different intepretation and thats OK. –  V. Rollins May 25 at 18:33
    
How does Acts 10:34, Galatians 6:1, Job 11:4-6, Luke 6:37 and Psalms 26:11 talk about compassion or kindness in anyway? "God is no respecter of persons" - I don't see how it talks about compassion or kindness or not judging? And Galatians - "meekness" is not kindness. Job 11 is talking about how true wisdom (of God, not man) is two-sided and that God overlooks some of our sins (known or unknown). It talks about how God should speak AGAINST our limited knowledge - I don't see a teaching of kindness or not judging there. I'll give you Luke 6:37, that is the only one about not judging. –  Zoe May 25 at 18:50
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