As a Christian, there is nothing as disturbing to me as pettiness between brothers and sisters in Christ.
Over the past few weeks, I've been having an ongoing discussion with some Pastor's wives about different things that go on in church that we find appalling and we are 99.9999% sure the Lord feels the same way! Then my daughter wrote a thought provoking blog that caused me to think even further. Both conversations had to deal with forgiveness and not exposing the sins of others. As a Pastor's wife, I have plenty of opportunities to make judgments, a lot of which I wish I didn't have to make. The truth is that we have to make judgments everyday about our daily lives, situations we are involved in, and critical situations when dealing with people. That is not the same thing as judging people unfairly although it may involve coming to a conclusion that the person wouldn't like.
When having to make judgments and BEFORE becoming judgmental, take the following steps:
1) Look at your own actions first. Their actions might well be a reasonable reaction to your actions, attitudes and narrative. If in doubt, before accusing and/or exposing others, approach them and ask! It's God's prescribed method of dealing with glitches in Body life. Don't over-spiritualize your own experience in an effort to validate ways of thinking that need to change in your own life.
2) Think the best. Think about who that person is. That they claim to love the Lord....just like you do. That they endeavor to follow Christ and emulate Him...just like you do. Think about all the good qualities, all the good times, all the things that made you love that person in the first place and realize that more than likely they are that same person. Give them the benefit of the doubt. (Works with husbands too) There is nothing more hurtful than to be betrayed by another person in the Body of Christ because they believed what they heard about you from another brother or sister in Christ or they perceived some wrong doing by your actions without fully considering and investigating them first. I believe that the Bible refers to this as "devouring one another." Why is it that church people are so quick to believe the bad they hear or perceive about another member?
Many years ago, a colleague slandered and defamed us as people and ministers. The ramifications of these actions changed the whole course of our ministry. Although we had some insight as to the motives behind it, what hurt us the most was that people who knew us well, some who had raised us in the Lord and mentored us believed what was said without ever questioning us about it. They had only known this colleague for a short time. They had known us much, much longer and should have known better than to believe what was being said about us. And if they thought that what was being said was true, why didn't they come to us out of concern for our souls and question us about it? In some ways we could sympathize with King David when he said in Psalm 41 "even my close friend whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me". In his case, he had sinned. In our case, we had not and that made it even harder. Friends that we had trusted betrayed us and shunned us and distanced themselves from us. Fortunately a few of our friends supported us saying that when they heard these things they knew they weren't true because they knew who God had made us to be. They had eaten with us, fellowshipped with us, and sat under our ministry. They knew what kind of people we were. It's in times like these that you find out who your true friends are. So when dealing with the Body of Christ, treat them as family because they are. Treat them as you want to be treated. Give them the same benefit of the doubt that you give your blood relatives or that you would want people to give you.
3. Cover. Even if it turns out that the person was in the wrong, cover their sin, don't expose it. It amazes me the things that end up on the internet. As a Pastor's wife, I cringe when I read blogs where church members correct one another on line, in public, for the whole world to see. What a horrible witness! Don't validate your venting because you didn't go to a person who you perceived wronged you as some sort of spiritual exercise to help enlighten others or to justify your own feelings of unforgiveness and violation. And for the sake of the name of Christ, keep the church's dirty laundry in the church! Exposing perceived wrongs (see #1 of this list) in a public forum only strengthens scoffer’s arguments that church is no different than the world. Although it may be representative in the church, the world sees it as representative of that body of believers or the church universal. I do not believe that God takes that lightly considering what it cost Him to provide them a way of salvation. Plus, these are His kids you are attacking and God does not feel kindly towards bullies.
4. Forgive. For goodness sake, just forgive and move on. Jesus suffered much worse and still died for those nailing him to a tree. In comparison, your petty little grievances are really not that monumental unless you allow them to become so. Forgiveness is not a service you provide for the sake of others. It is something God has provided for your own sake to keep you at peace and in His good graces. If you truly have forgiven a person, their wrongs will not still be following you around months or years later. In fact, you will be more inclined to remember the good interactions you had with that person over the bad ones. Perhaps you never forget, but those things should not still be causing you to have anger, hurt, resentment or pain in your heart. I will never forget what the wrongful actions cost us as a couple, but they don't bother me anymore. In fact, I rarely think about them. I chose to forgive a long, long time ago. Did I learn from them? Yes! They were valuable lessons and in many ways were used to create positive changes in my mind and heart bringing me more stability in life. Unforgiveness is a terrible taskmaster! It steals kills and destroys because it is from its creator-the devil.
A small mouse nibbling can create a big hole! Don't be nibbling on your brothers and sisters in Christ. It's destructive to the Body of which Christ is the head. Nibbling on His body is the same as doing it to Him. In a world that endeavors to devour you, you need those church members. Don't destroy what God has given you as a great gift by unforgiveness, self-centeredness and pettiness!