Perhaps you saw or heard about this story in the news this week. The Journal reported, “A dispute over leadership at a Henderson County church has turned from angry words to fist fights.” Around thirty law enforcement officers were called to a church this past Sunday to “break up fights.” Apparently the conflict revolved around the recent firing of the minister.
I realize that we can’t be guilty of judging everyone in that church, or that religious group, or all groups, by the actions of some. I think the term, if I remember it from my high school American History and Sociology lessons, is “Sweeping Generalizations.” We are all tempted to judge everyone of a particular race, or religion, or area, or economic standing, or profession, etc. by the actions of a few. We must not give in to that temptation! First of all it’s not accurate, and it causes us to lose credibility (and rightly so) among others in our circle of friends, in our work place or school, and in the community overall.
And yet this story begs the question, what kind of witness for Jesus does this event bear? An even more important question for us is, what kind of witness for Jesus do I bear?
We can shake our heads at events like this, and condemn those involved. But I wonder if we realize how similar of an effect we have on others at times. When we say things that are critical and judgmental about someone behind their back. When we refuse to give others the benefit of the doubt, and jump to judgment as if we know their hearts, as if we know all the details of the situation and everything that person or group is going through. When our words may be true, but our tone and attitude reveal a feeling of superiority not hidden and, even more importantly, not Christ-like.
When you heard this story, how did you react? As tragic as it is, did you pray for them? Did you ask God to heal the wounds and the hurts and lead them to treat each other better as they work through the conflict, in order that their witness in the world might be one that encourages others to seek the Lord rather than one that brings reproach upon His name and His cause? Did you ask God to forgive you for times when you too have acted in ways that hurt rather than help the cause of Christ? Did you ask the Lord to help you grow to be more like Jesus in the way you treat others, even when you disagree with them? Especially when you disagree with them?