In preaching, speaking publicly, and in writing its wise to sit on things for a time before you speak or write them. Why? Often, no matter how true it is, someone will think that they are the target of your words.
The truth is that its impossible to avoid this difficulty if one observes true things and begins to work through implications ethically and strategically. Some are always going to be “rubbed the wrong way.”
I’ve sat on this rule of Christian fellowship for a while because it’s quite possibly the most violated truth in humanity not just in the church. This sledge-hammer of a statement has been used against numerous church members in the history of the faith, against people in our own church, against me, against my wife, and it has awful consequences.
Now, understand, I’m posting because its important that we love each other, and love has implications on how we treat each other. How we treat each other affects the ability to attack the vision in unity. So, the end is accomplishing the vision together not grinding some ax. Hear that.
We’ve come 15 + years toward discipling the nations, and God has been gracious to preserve us in love and unity to that end. He has done that often in spite of us, and sometimes because we fight to kill sin that can hurt us.
Here is an effort to help us all fight sin that can derail the vision.
Rule 5: Don’t use the “other people say” argument when dealing with each other.
One of the most cowardly things humans do to other humans is use the “other people say” when they are confronting someone else about something they don’t agree with, like or think wrong.
Why is it wrong to use the “other people say” hammer when dealing with another human, much less someone we claim to be family with in Christ?
- Jesus says that if we see our brother or sister in sin we should speak to them alone. Well, then it seems that if someone needs to be addressed regarding sin that it should be the person who sees the sin, not a brave representative sent on behalf the other folks not brave enough or caring enough to speak about what may be sin. It should only be a group thing if there is sin and the sinner does not repent when a loving friend seeks to help them over the sin. In most instances, the use of “other people say” is a preference issue or a personal offense spoken about amongst others until anger spills over out-of-bounds. In fact, if other people see a problem with someone, they should be the one’s going to help with love not fueling gossip.
- Often the “other people say” sledge-hammer is used to simply justify a sinful response or to justify they way a person feels. The truth is, they may have no right to feel any way regarding a person because they don’t know all the facts and assume too much. If there is a problem, then address the problem, but don’t justify oneself by saying “other people say” when in fact they don’t say.
- The “other people say” hammer wounds the targeted person. How? It creates suspicion regarding who is observing them but does not have the courage to speak. It is flat-out sin by ignoring Jesus’ instruction if there is sin. If there is not sin but a difference in what you would do versus what they would do, then its better to get over it and don’t mistreat the person for a difference in strategy.
- The “other people say” hammer facilitates people continuing to rebel against good order by allowing cowards to hide behind the proxy of the group.
The bottom line is that the “other people say” thing should disappear from the use of humans, but even more so among Christians in covenant community together.
Here is a positive rule to help us all in dealing with each other: ASSUME THE BEST INTENTIONS ABOUT SOMEONE WE ARE IN COVENANT COMMUNITY WITH, AND ASK QUESTIONS GENTLY IF CONCERNED.
Remember, if we are covenanted together, loving each other, and bearing with one another, then there is never a need to have a huddle of folks talking about another person unless they are building them up.
If there are personal preference differences, then address them privately with liberality toward another person’s way of doing things for the sake of learning and understanding.
If there is legitimate sin, then obey Jesus’ instructions.
At the end of the day, don’t use the “other people say” hammer to hurt people. That is unbecoming of citizens of God’s kingdom.
Maybe this will help you navigate the complexity of life together even when we get tired of each other and frustrated with each other.
Remember, assume the best about each other. Don’t be quick to assume the worst.