About a week ago I was having a conversation with an older gentlemen on the phone about some issues going on at his church. He said, "You know, I expected you to be arrogant, but you're not that way at all." I asked him, if he wouldn't mind sharing, why he expected that.
"Because of what I'd heard," He responded.
"From who?" I asked.
"From ___________." (name left out)
I had never heard of the person. They are not a friend, family member, or church member. They aren't even a Facebook friend, member at the gym I go to, and they don't have a child in my children's extracurriculars. It's safe to say, they don't know me. So, why would someone say something like that about someone? And, why would someone embrace such an opinion without getting to know the person first…and then deciding whether or not they agreed? I will admit I was mildly offended until I realized I've actually done the same far too often myself…though I try not to.
It takes time to get to know people. It takes effort to see for yourself who they are, and to learn to love some of those who are less easy to love. It's easier to just out-source getting to know people to the gossips if we can….because we're often too busy to do it ourselves. And, besides, it always makes me feel better about me to point out the flaws of another. It allows me to feel the sentiment inside, "Thank you God, that I am not a sinner like her/him."
All of it's just wrong…and often causes us to miss out on relationships that could have been. Most importantly, God won't honor such behavior. This is a huge problem in churches…and it really shouldn't be.
Have you ever had a particular impression of a person based either on observation from a distance or the word of another, only to discover you were way off base once you finally came to know them? Have you ever allowed another's opinion to poison you toward someone…even though you have no real knowledge of the person? Ever met someone at a gathering and thought them to be cold and withdrawn and then discovered they were either having an off night or are outrageously funny in other settings? If so, take the time to get to know them.
Several years ago, I had been warned so many times about a particular person in the church that I avoided them…only to find out, after several years…they were an outstanding person. The problem person was the one who told me about them. You may have had a similar experience. In fact, I'm sure you have. We all have. So, for the sake of loving one another, we might be better off following a few principles:
- Assume everyone is a "good person" until we have substantive, first-hand experience to prove otherwise.
- A negative experience with a person doesn't mean they should be "blackballed" by me. It doesn't mean much other than they are human. They need forgiveness, coaching, perhaps rebuke. Yes, there are some true snakes out there…but there aren't many.
- When I have a problem with someone, I will talk to, not about the person.
I will remember that I'm not always the best person to be around either.