Attacking Your Family

When we fight and condemn one another, denounce other Christians and divide from them, fostering all kinds of divisions within the church, then we do not have the mind of Christ. – Christopher Wright 

If I were to give an account for every word that I have spoken throughout my life, I would be woefully ashamed of many things I’ve said about others without their knowledge. In a world that remains in darkness, the church bodies in our communities sadly has its light for Christ dimmed due to in-fighting, gossip, slander, and the like. They have become respectable sins, those sins that are in our lives that aren’t nearly as bad as adultery and murder and thus eat away at our relationships since they aren’t confronted.

The above quote is from the book Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit. In the chapter about peace, Wright bemoans the reality that many of our church communities are ravaged by condemnation and accusations being thrown to and fro. There is no peace it seems in the body of Christ.

I want to first address and confess my sins in this area. In my first years in ministry, there were many times where I spoke poorly about those who had no ability to defend themselves since they weren’t even privy to the conversations being had. I belittled spiritual leadership in authority over me, I poked fun at others’ expense, and spouted off about anyone and everyone when given even the slightest sliver of an opportunity.

All of this I did with very little remorse or even concern. In my prideful state of mind, I was simply speaking truth in the midst of those who had strayed from it. In my arrogant state of mind, I was merely calling people out due to their sin (btdubs, the Bible never calls for us to call people out for their sin via conversations without their presence).

I am grateful to God that I have seen a lot of growth in this area since I moved back to Texas. Although I am still prone to falling into sin in this area, God has brought me a long way.

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. . . . . may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 15:2, 5-6

How do we glorify God as a community?

We live in harmony.

We build up our neighbor, our brother or sister in Christ.

My heart breaks when I see full grown adults bickering with one another and gossiping about each other. My heart breaks when I fall into this sin. We are not called to speak poorly about anyone, much less someone who also calls Jesus Christ their Lord.

The above passage is encouraging in its phrasing. The ability to live in harmony with all people, no matter what, is brought about by the God whose vary character is one of endurance and encouragement. We can encourage others and find the endurance to do so even when nobody else is, because that is the character of our God.

Here’s just a few quick ways that we can combat this insidious sin in our churches.

1. Confront Sin Privately (and be willing to be confronted)

As I said earlier, in previous seasons of ministry, I used the excuse that I was simply confronting sin when I went around gossiping and slandering. That’s not how the Bible teaches us to confront sin. We are to admonish and exhort one another privately, in the context of already established relationships. On a vastly important note, I have no right to speak into the attitudes and lifestyles of others if I give no one the opportunity to confront sin in my life without getting defensive or upset.

Instead of gossiping to others; lovingly, kindly, humbly, bring up the matter at hand in private conversation.

2. Speak Up

This is the hardest one for me to do. I don’t very often. But one way that we can correct the sins of gossip and slander in our churches is by speaking up and saying that we aren’t going to allow it. We should go about this in a manner of humility, not accusing or attacking those who are in the moment gossiping. We must simply remind one another that it divides the church against itself, and that nothing good EVER comes from gossip and slander.

As a twenty-five year old, it’s difficult for me to speak up against it in certain contexts, but we are called by God to make peace.

3. Encourage 

The final way that we can confront gossip and slander is by consistently and constantly encouraging others. In his book, Side by Side, Edward Welch encourages his readers to see the good in all people.

The goal here is to keep our eyes open for good things in others. When we see good things, we savor them and point them out. As you get to know people, you will encounter many hard things, some unattractive things, but if you also see good, you will see people more as God does, and that is a blessing. – Edward Welch 

Instead of being men and women who claim to follow Jesus yet tear down their sibling in the Lord, let us be men and women who consistently build others up. Find the good, and speak about it. When the temptation to slander comes up, encourage. When the temptation to bemoan someone’s actions comes up, speak instead about the good that you see in them.

We live in a dark world, this is true.

Instead of tearing one another down through incessant gossip and slander, we can bind together and transform into the community that people desire to be about.

My question is, are you part of the problem?

I know I have been at times.

God’s grace is greater than your sin and mine.

Let’s be people who leave gossip and slander behind.

Ticked Off Jonah

I enjoy studying the Bible. If you know me, you know that. Let me clarify however. I enjoy observing and interpreting the Bible, I do not enjoy the application part of the Bible. It is much more fun to see what the Bible meant back then than it is to see what the Bible is confronting in me and is calling me to do.

The book of Jonah confronted the mess out of me. As horrible of a man as Jonah was prone to be, I see myself in him. Unfortunately it is unavoidable, there is no way of getting around it.

Many know the story of Jonah. He runs from God’s call and finds himself in the belly of a big ol’ fish. After prayerfully turning from his rebellion, the Lord has the fish spit him up on dry land and then recommissions Jonah to Nineveh.

However, most of us, including myself, have never really dug into the second half of the story after the fish blew chunks.

Jonah chapter 3 recounts what happens in Nineveh. Jonah walks in and proclaims that destruction is coming. The people of Nineveh believe in God, repent in sackcloth and ashes, and the king of Nineveh decrees a city-wide fast in hopes of God relenting from the impending doom that Jonah said was coming. The final verse of chapter three tells of how God saw them turn from their wicked ways and how He chose thus to save the city at that time. Wow. Miraculous repentance. City-wide repentance. City-saving repentance. Brought about by God’s mercy and grace through the proclamation of His servant Jonah.

You would think such an awe-inspiring act of repentance and subsequent mercy would lead Jonah into a grateful and thankful proclamation of praise.

Nope.

Instead, we read:

But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was in still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. – Jonah 4:1-2

Wait, what?

Jonah witnesses the salvation of a city and gets ticked off. He cries out to the Lord and says that God’s kindness and mercy and compassion is the very reason he didn’t want to come to Nineveh in the first place. He’s so angry that he tells God to just kill him already (verse 3).

Later on in the chapter, Jonah will leave the city and wait to see what would end up happening. God brings a plant to give him shade and comfort, but the following day God removes the plant via a small worm and Jonah is wrecked by a scorching eastern wind. In verse eight he hilariously (or sadly) gets so mad that he tells God to just kill him yet again.

The book of Jonah concludes with the following:

Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” – Jonah 4:9-11

The book of Jonah runs all up on me and doesn’t take it easy.

At first, it didn’t. At first, I was ready to put the Bible study I had finished on Jonah back on my shelf and move on to whatever was next. But I lingered. I read the narrative again and got a face full of conviction.

I am like Jonah.

At first, I didn’t think so. I would never, I mean surely would never, be unwilling to share the goodness of Jesus and be angry at God when He saved.

My mind however goes back to Phoenix, AZ (I know that I write a lot about this chapter of my life, so forgive me for going back there again. I will say however that it’s simply a fact that it is in the deserts of life [this time a literal desert] that God teaches us the most).

Leading up to my departure, I regularly listened to and belted out “Thy Will Be Done” by Hillary Scott. It was my anthem. I shouted it out and I meant it. Thy will be done Lord. No matter what. Thy will be done, no matter the cost.

Yet then I caved into fear and let the trials of my life break down my faith. I was in a place that was foreign to me, loud, busy, full of people and most of them were not like me.

A couple weeks into my Phoenix season that song came on the radio. I distinctly remember turning it off. I did this each time it played the whole time I was there. I didn’t want God’s will to be done. Because I knew it would cost me. I knew it would cost me my comfort, my security, my ideal life. I wanted my will to be done instead.

It really is no wonder that that was the worst year of my life because of that fact.

God had commissioned me to a people that needed to hear about His Son, and although I did share and serve, my life was never wholly surrendered to God.

I really am like Jonah.

Maybe you’re like Jonah too. Maybe you are more concerned with your comfort than the salvation of those around you.

Don’t wallow in this. Pray for the ability and strength to change.

Cry out to God.

And remember,

. . . Salvation is from the Lord. – Jonah 2:9b

In His Name,

Nate Roach