Monday, August 11, 2014

Wrong Words, Wrong Time, Wrong Place

image used under Creative Commons license, drawing by nemo on pixabay
We've all been a proud participant in "open mouth, insert foot".  Sometimes, up to the knee.  We've been there when others have done it and we've done it ourselves.  Sometimes it's offensive.  On other occasions it's just embarrassing. That's why the big mouth with the talk bubble, to our right.  It's about as blatant as those moments.

And you guessed it.  This one came out of a personal experience.  I really appreciate when someone is willing to stand up against heresy or bad doctrine.  I'm one who's been known to do that.  But there are ways to do that and ways not to.  I've done both.  We all know the old saw about drawing more flies with honey than with vinegar.  That applies to anything and anyone.  It's hard to convince someone they ought to listen to us, right after we've called them some sort of jerk.  Having been on both sides of both kinds of conversation, I think I have some insights that might help.

There's an old Cherokee saying that says not to judge someone until you've walked his walk.  Some quote it as "walked in his shoes", some say moccasins.  Jesus said it this way:

John 8:7 (KJV)  So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

I started thinking about that because of emotional rants based on a relatively minor faux pas. In one case, there was someone who used one of the lesser swear words, once.  None used in any conversations before or after.  That got turned into being described as "swearing up a storm". Agreed that the word used wouldn't have been my choice.  But it takes us back to that Cherokee proverb.

We each have our own backgrounds.  Some more genteel, some not so much.  If that one word is that offensive, it's unlikely the person who was offended has ever or will ever evangelize in any of the inner cities or jails across America.  The daily vocabulary would keep them away.

Or what about the person trying to grow in the faith, but fails frequently.  Sex, alcohol, drugs, vocabulary, anger, and more.  There always seems to be someone willing to point out their shortcomings instead of reaching out to help lift them up.

The longer we've been away from our origins, the more we can be lulled into believing we're the ones without sin.  But the whole point of John 8:7 is that only Jesus was sinless.  It can be humbling to realize that we sin daily, no matter how righteous we think we are.

Luke 6:37 tells us, "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:".  There's a difference between discerning and judging. Discernment leads to reconciliation, judgement is couched in accusation.

Romans 14:13 (KJV)  Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.

There are lots of graphics going around the web that all, in one way or another, say that we need to get rid of those who make us unhappy.  There are two problems with that idea.  Pushing them away cuts off communication.  Which eliminates any opportunity for ministry, pastoring, counseling, reconciliation.  And that makes us the stumbling block.  The other part of the problem is that it's never them that makes us unhappy.  It's our own reaction that does that.  How do we separate ourselves from ourselves?

Sure, 1 Corinthians 6:2 says, "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?".  It speaks of the final judgement, not before.  But there are two words for "judge" in that verse.  The first two instances are the same word and speak of judging.  The phrase "judge the smallest matters" uses the word that becomes "criterion" in English.  A standard to be discerned and applied to reconciliation.  Jesus tells us much the same thing.  Take a look at what Christ said about judging while He was on the earth.

John 12:46-48 (KJV)  I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.  And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.  He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

Until Judgement Day, even Jesus waits to judge.  As His representatives, we need to follow His lead. We're here to reconcile others to God, to help them recognize that it's only through the grace of God that we do anything right, giving others the hope that His grace and mercy is all they need, too.

In our first world comfort we find time to nitpick on words and have intellectual theological debates. In the meantime, Christians in much of the rest of the world are living their faith and trying to protect themselves and others from jail, torture, and death for living what they believe.  Which example do we want to live by?


  1. Great post Bill. I saw one of those graphics the other day. Sadly it was actually from a popular poster. Part of it read, "If they left you, you didn't need them. If they walked away, they weren't part of your destiny." So if my kids walk away they weren't part of my destiny? - I resisted the urge to respond. I have learned that I need to choose my battles wisely.


  2. I just remember that there was a time when I was the one who was way out there, Jon. Neither my parents nor God gave up on me. Now that I've been on the other side of the fence for a number of years, my giving up on someone is like I'm dishonoring them and God.

    As for the battles, I pick 'em. I'm not so certain about the wisely part. LOL