Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jumping (off a cliff) to Conclusions

Years ago, with no evidence and surreptitious accusations, men and women were tried and convicted of the ghastly crime of being—you guessed it—a witch. In the same vein, “drumhead courts” were conducted with swift collaboration and often harsh, if not brutal, judgments. These ancient forms of jurisprudence have managed to find their way into the modern vernacular, and now most everyone knows what is meant by a “witch-hunt.”

These “witch-hunts” still happen, but they happen in a different environment—the media. Today, turn on a television and watch the news and soon you will hear the various broadcasters mention someone who is accused of some heinous crime. However, the verbiage used is built around the assumption that the person is guilty. A man will be charged with some pernicious crime and the media blitz will speak against the “evil” man. They will discourse and dialogue with each other about how this man (or woman) could do the things they’ve been accused of. Now, remember, people are still innocent until proven guilty, but that doesn’t prevent the “talking heads” from maligning and destroying the character of the accused.

Christians must have a higher standard than what is purported on these accusatorial bandwagons. The standard for a Christian is: truth. Yet I am sure that the following scenario is familiar to you: a person is maligned through gossip or accusation and soon members of the church rise up and hop on the wagon, without evidence and without support. I remember as I sat in Bible study a woman of the church said, “Can you believe what [person named] did?” I asked her, “How do you know? Did [person named] tell you this?” Sheepishly she admitted that the evidence she possessed was little more than gossip. Ask yourself: how quickly do you navigate toward believing everything you hear about someone else? Or do you, as a faithful believer, question responsibly and seek the truth?

John the Baptist, when questioned by a group of Roman soldiers about repentance, said, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay” (Luke 3:14). The Roman soldier was the ancient version of law enforcement. Imagine when a police officer arrests someone today, they bring all the weight of the law against the individual simply by the position they hold. So how important is it that an officer of the law makes sure that their accusation is viable? It is imperative! 1 Timothy 5:19 states, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” Yet, today, accusations in the church run rampant and are readily believed by those who have no knowledge of the circumstances.

Consider the exhortation given by James, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Consider Proverbs 3:30, “Do not accuse a man for no reason—when he has done you no harm.” Too many people are willing to jump to conclusions like lemmings off a cliff. It is time for Christians to take the higher road, the road of truth and turn a deaf ear to gossip and malicious slander. In this world of mass-media and multitudinous voices pandering to the fears of society, Christians can be the voice of reason and bear again the banner of truth.

Rev. Michael Duncan

Friday, September 11, 2009

Christian Conversation

The Lord responded to Moses’ complaint by asking a rhetorical question, “Who gave man his mouth?” If God gave man a mouth to speak, a language to use, a brain to think, then it stands to reason that God will hold accountable every man to the use of his words.

However, think how often a stray thought rushes from the mouth like a geyser, or an un-checked word escapes like a bat out of a cave? Believers in Christ are commissioned by God to use the tongue for His glory, to speak words for a more noble purpose, to take every thought captive and make them obedient to Christ. Is this how you approach your conversations with the world around you?

Consider what God’s word says. Psalm 37:30, “The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.” Proverbs 8:7, “My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.” These two passages of Scripture give a clear picture of what the mouth of a believer ought to voice—only that which is wise and true. Is this your utterance? Is this your conversation?

I remember, some time ago, when I walked with a group of Christians as we left a meeting. We navigated through the parking lot and made our way to the car, all the while speaking and laughing and carrying on with the wonderful fellowship we just experienced. However, one in our party thought to share a story—a witticism that carried a hint of vulgarity. As this person espoused the humor, the remaining members walked in stunned silence at the lack of Christian character displayed in the joke. When confronted, the person quickly defended the tale, saying it was, “just a joke.” Has true faith become so watered-down by the world that believers can casually share at a joke that is vulgar and crude without a shred of conscience? Was Jeremiah right when he said that the people of God had forgotten even how to blush (Jeremiah 8:12)? It was more than just a joke; it was a telling sign of what ruminated in that person’s heart. Jesus said, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored in his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

Paul entreats the church, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). Again the Bible states, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). And again in Ephesians, “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving” (5:4).

All believers have a responsibility to God, to fellow believers and to the world at large to speak those words that will exalt Christ, edify the church and entreat the lost world to Jesus. Is this your conversation? It should be.

©2009 Rev. Michael Duncan