Jim Ratcliffe - What We Should be to One Another - Kansai, Japan - February 14, 1986

I always like to hear the testimonies of my brethren, and I thought tonight I would tell a little of my testimony. When I give my testimony, I go back to when I was a little boy. I had two brothers, twins, a little older than myself. They were very small when they were born. I was a good size when I was born.

We were three little boys almost, the same size growing up. We were pioneers in Canada, out on a farm three miles from a village We had a little bird that sang very nicely. All of us loved the little bird. One day, my mother lifted the cage down from where it was hanging, and put it on a table. She said, "The little bird is dead." We came and stood around the cage, and the bird lay on the floor of the cage. Mother took it out of the cage, and said, "The little bird is dead." Then she said, "You had better take the little bird to the flower garden and bury it." We found a little box and put the bird in it. My brother made a hole in the garden, put the box in and covered it up.

God spoke to me that day. God said, "One day, you will die like the little bird." Perhaps it was the first time that I was conscious that one day I would die. I tell people God loves little children, because He sought to speak to me when I was just a little child. I am thankful God sought to put in my heart thoughts of eternity. I never told anyone that God spoke to me that day, but this gave me serious thoughts when I was growing up.

I had the privilege of listening to the preachers of several different sects, but I was never satisfied that I was right with God, and I am thankful that I didn't feel satisfied. This caused me to seek for something different. The time came when God sent two of His messengers to our district, two brothers. They were strangers to us. We were strangers to them. We hadn't invited them to come, but they came and held meetings in our school house. It was in the winter time, and there was much snow and cold. We drove a team of horses about eight kilometers. Sometimes those men came walking through the snow to visit us. I saw sacrifice in their lives, and saw they had love for us as strangers, sinners. I don't remember very much of what they said, but one day, the older brother said (he was speaking of the Pharisees), "Do you not think there could be Pharisees in the world today?" That day I could see all the religions in the world were just of the Pharisees. I was convinced those men were God's messengers and brought us the truth of God. Mother was a religious woman, and I thought she surely will see this, and want to follow that way. She didn't. Some other men in the district would want to follow, I thought, but they didn't either. One man even went and spoke against those men. I knew that I should make my choice, but I saw I would be alone in the home to serve God. I saw I would have to give up all the pleasures that I was enjoying. I saw the cost. I suppose I listened to the devil's voice that said, "You can choose God a little later, it will be easier a little later." I put off making my choice for the time being, but I couldn't have peace in my soul for those two years that followed. One night, I prayed that if I could hear God's messengers again, I would make my choice. Shortly afterward, I learned that there were two brother workers not so far away. I didn't go immediately but when I did go to listen to them, it was on a Friday night. They announced one more meeting so I went to that meeting on a Sunday night. They announced two more meetings. I am sure it was because there was a "fish" in the pond. That Sunday night I made my choice, and said, "It's Christ tonight and Christ forever."

One year after I made my choice, I was sitting in a little meeting. My testimony that day was, "It pays to serve Jesus; I speak from my heart." I had proved a peace and rest of heart I had never had before. About two years after that, I had the privilege of going forth into the harvest field. I went to a convention that first year after professing. There was an old man speaking in one of the meetings. He said, "We are getting older, and our lives are on the altar and being consumed. Soon they will be completely consumed, and the ashes will be removed from under the altar The altar will be ready for new sacrifice, and who will be the next one on the altar?" I got the message. I knew the Lord was putting it on my heart to put my life on the altar of service. That brother worker went to another convention, and then he was going to a third, but he took a heart attack and died. When I got the news of his death, those words came back very forcibly to me, "Who will be the next on the altar?"

I had the privilege of going forth the next year. Sometimes, I say that the first year in the work I wished I had been a better companion. The second year I finished, I wished I had been a better companion. There have been other years when I finished and wished I had been a better companion. It's over thirty-five years ago now that I made a study of what we should be to one another, and what we could do for one another. I have thought perhaps God was trying to show me how I could be a better companion. So tonight, I would like to speak a little about that study of what we can be to one another. Jesus said, "Love one another as I have loved you." Perhaps this is the key to the whole situation. Paul in writing to the Romans (13:10) said, "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor." Maybe we can speak about that a little later.

But there are three things essential to good fellowship. We all need to learn these three things: (1) Submission, (2) Confession, (3) Forgiveness. Ephesians 5:21, submitting to one another. We do not always think alike, and we have different likes and dislikes. We need to learn to submit the one to the other. If I submit only twenty percent, my companion has to submit eighty percent. I wouldn't like to think that my companion had to submit to me eighty percent of the time. Perhaps sometimes, I think I am submitting sixty percent, and my companion thinks he is submitting sixty percent. We don't always notice when our companion is doing the submitting but we notice it every time we submit to our companions. I was speaking of this in a special meeting thirty-five years ago. At my right hand there were two sister workers. Those two were smiling. I had said, for example, that if two people go to the same bedroom to sleep and one says, "Let's leave the window open," and the other says, "Close it," what are we going to do? That had happened the night before with those two sister workers. One wanted the window open; the other wanted it closed. I didn't ask them how they kept the window, but I knew those sisters well, and I don't think either would want to impose on the other. Likely they kept the window just half open.

James 5:16, "Confess your faults one to another." I usually tell what happened to me one time. I had a companion that spoke very rapidly, and sometimes not very clearly. I have become dull in the ears. That is a bad combination. Every day I would say, "Please don't speak so fast." Every day, it was the same story. One morning, we were studying the Bible together, and four times I asked him. The last time, he said, "Oh, please forgive me." I said, "Yes, and it may be the last time." Then I was sorry. I wished I had never said it, because there can never be a last time in forgiving. I tell people I learned when I had that companion what it meant to forgive seventy times seven. I couldn't go to pray that night until I had gone and confessed that I was sorry for what I had said. Did your tongue ever get you into trouble like that? It wasn't the only time my tongue got me into trouble, but the same little tongue that got me into trouble got me out of trouble. The Bible says, "A word fitly spoken (spoken in season) how good it is." When I confessed, that was a word spoken in season. Then my companion forgave me and set me free. When we confess our faults the one to the other, it binds us closer together. Sometimes I say I have never found it difficult to forgive, but I can't say I haven't found it difficult to confess my wrong. What hinders us from confessing our faults? Just common pride. I realize I had pride when I found it difficult to confess my wrong. Sometimes, we wish we could bury that old pride so it wouldn't come back again. A little boy had a cat. He played with it, but often got scratched. He thought he would like to destroy the cat. He found a sack and put the cat in it. He went down to the river and threw the cat and the sack into the river. He came slowly walking back to the house, thinking of his cat way down in the river. When he got to the house, the cat was the first thing that met him. The cat had got out of the sack and back to the house. That is the way it is sometimes when we try to bury this old pride.

Then we must learn to forgive, because Jesus said, "If you forgive others their trespasses, your Father will forgive you; but if not, your Father will not forgive you." We also read, "Be ye kind one to another." Kindness is something we see in the life of Jesus, all through His life He was kind to everyone. I think of the time those disciples had gone fishing, and Jesus was somewhat disappointed in them. They toiled one night and got nothing, and when they came to land Jesus was waiting on the shore. The first words He said were, "Children, have you any meat?" Very kind words. He could have said, "Why did you go fishing?" Sometimes we say kindness has never scratched anyone, and has never left a scar, but kindness has often healed the wounds. Someone asked a person, "If you had to live life over again, is there something you would do differently?" She said, "I think I would try to be more kind." A woman lived close to the friends for many years, wasn't professing. Finally, she came to meetings and made her choice. One of the workers asked, "What was the reason you came to the meetings and made your choice?" She said, "I think it was the kindness of the friends." "Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of my brethren, you have done it unto Me." When we have been unkind to our brethren, we have been unkind to Jesus.

James 5:16, "Pray one for another." It's good to try to pray for one another, pray for the members of the church. Sometimes I have prayed for friends and workers miles and miles away, and then my conscience troubled me, because I didn't pray for my companion. I feel I have often failed to pray for my companions. A lady made her choice in our meetings in West Africa (I work among the black people). When she professed, her husband left her with three little children, not because of the truth, but he just went off with another woman. Our friend had to raise those three little children. A little boy just shortly before I left Africa came to our bach and told us he wanted to begin to serve God, just eleven years of age. Sometime afterward, he prayed for his father in the meeting on Sunday. It was touching to hear him pray for his father that had forsaken him. The elder of the little church was so touched he could hardly speak in the meeting. Sometimes, we can learn good lessons from little children.

Colossians 3:9, "Lie not one to another." I wouldn't like to think that God's children would tell lies to one another, but we are so human that sometimes, we don't tell the whole truth. If it's something that's going to harm our own character, we sometimes don't tell the whole truth. One of our friends told us that when he was a little boy the neighbor had a plum tree in the garden, and the branch came over the wall. One day when the plums were getting ripe, the boy was tempted, took a stick, and shook the branch. Nice plums fell on the ground. When he was picking up the plums, his father came. "What are you doing?" he asked. "I am picking up the plums that fell from the neighbor’s tree." He was telling the truth, but not the whole truth. "Did you shake the tree?" He had to tell the truth, because he knew that to tell a lie would be worse for him. "You take those plums and go to the neighbor and tell him what happened." He took them and said, "Here are some plums that fell from your tree." "Oh, you are a good little boy." He told the truth, but he didn't tell the whole truth. The father asked, "What did the neighbour say?" "He said, 'You are a good little boy.'" "Did you tell him you shook the tree?" "No." You can tell the truth, but not the whole truth, and it changes the whole story. An honest person will take sides against himself.

James 4:11, "Speak not evil one of another." When I read this, I think of Mary and the costly ointment. Judas said, "'What a waste." Was that not evil speaking? When a person has done his best and you complain, that is speaking evil. Sometimes, those words can cut very deeply. But Mary didn't say a word. Sometimes, it's difficult to keep silence at a time like that. She could have said, "Judas, you mind your own business." She kept silent, and Jesus took her part. Sometimes when we keep silent the Lord takes our part. Jesus said to Judas, "Let her alone," which is almost the same as saying, "Mind your own business." We need to be careful not to speak evil of one another.

Galatians 5:13, "By love serve one another." When I read this, I think of Jesus in that upper room with His disciples. At every convention I attended in Australia, this account was mentioned. Jesus never become too great to serve. He said, "I am Lord and Master, but I am among you as He that serves." He never became too great to lay aside His apron of service. We will never become too great to lay aside our apron of service. A sister worker in West Africa, I always think she teaches us how to serve. She always finds some little thing in which to serve.

Ephesians 4:2, ''Forbearing one another." We are all a little different, and we have little ways of our own, and we need to bear. A brother worker said, "My companion is a little queer. In the morning after breakfast, I take a glass of water and wash my teeth. I put the glass with the other dishes to be washed. When he washes the dishes, he puts that glass to one side and won't wash it until he has washed all the other dishes. He even washes the greasy frying pan before he washes my glass. That's a little queer." But I said, "There are lots of problems without making a problem, and if I were you I would wash the glass and put it in its place for the next time, and there wouldn't be any problem. Why put your glass there every morning and torment your companion?"

The following says, "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." The Lord would like to see us making an effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. Sometimes we find it isn't the nice carpet on the floor, or the nice chairs, that make a good home, but it's the spirit in the home that is the all important thing. You could have carpets and cushions and chairs, but the home wouldn't be fit for Sunday morning meeting. It's the spirit in the home that makes the home what it should be. I had a letter from a worker who was staying in a home. She said, "We appreciate the peaceful, cooperative spirit in this home." I knew that home. Cooperation between the husband and wife, cooperation between children and parents, a peaceful spirit. Three children are now professing. The oldest is in the ministry. It's good to remember to try to keep the unity of the spirit in the home.

We need to try to keep the unity of the spirit as companions. A worker went overseas to a new field. He arrived with a true purpose to just fit in. His companion had been there some time, and was doing the marketing, cooking, concerning different customs and habits. His companion said, "I will do the cooking the first week (very kind of him), and you can do the cooking the next week." Every day for the noon meal, he made a salad: lettuce, onions tomatoes, oil, etc. Then he put in some garlic. The brother wasn't used to garlic in salad, but he made no complaints. The next week, it was his turn. He thought, "I have to make a salad, because my companion likes salad." So he made the salad as usual, but he thought, "I don't like garlic, so maybe I should make it without the garlic." No, that won't please my companion. He thought he could make two salads. "No, if I do that he will be obliged to do the same." In went the garlic. He ate it with his companion, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.

When I was leaving Canada for the first time to go to Africa, I realized that I was leaving all my companions and good friends behind, going all alone. Then I thought, "I am taking memories with me." That was nice. I thought about those memories, and I realized it isn't altogether what we have been or what we have done, but we leave our spirit. I realized I was taking a memory of every one of my companion's spirit. I knew I was leaving behind me a memory of my spirit. That was very, very searching. I realized that day that I could go nowhere without leaving a memory of my spirit. This applies to all of you, as well as to myself. A worker went to a certain state to conventions. Some years later he went back to that same state. A responsible brother said, "What we remember from your last visit is your spirit." I would like to try to be a better companion.