June 23, 2007

Not So Fast My Friend

We are living in a culture that has completely chosen to disobey James 1:19 "be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires"

And so this story in the Baptist Press is really timely and really true. The title is Don't Jump Too Far and talks about our growing readiness to convict someone guilty before we've ever done a proper investigation. The two examples are recent: The Duke Lacrosse Case and The Guy Who Was Beaten To Death For Hitting A Child.

In both cases, justice was taken into the hands of a person or group of persons that were more interested in finding someone guilty than taking the time to do a proper investigation. One situation led to the ruined lives of three young college men. The other to the death of a person who made a mistake.

So lest we think this happens only in the world, it happens in churches and ministries all the time. How many pastors do you know that have been run off from churches due to false allegations? How many times have you seen peoples livelihoods and reputations ruined due to slanderous remarks?

Why is it that we as Christians are so ready to convict rather than be patient and make sure we have all the facts first? Consider this paragraph from the article:

Jumping to a conclusion is an emotional reaction to a presumed reality. It does not take into account facts and ignores context. Both of which are critical if one is interested in arriving at the truth of any given situation

Facts and Context! They matter a great deal. And when one or the other is ignored or not taken properly into account, a miscarriage of justice is sure to occur. A youth minister who cracks a joke to his teenage youth group. A pastor who in the passion of the moment uses a profanity from the pulpit. Instances like that happen more often than we think and instead of being quick to offer grace, we condemn and judge as if we had no sin in our lives. Truth is, if we were all so quickly judged by God, there would be no one left on Earth.

And whatever happened in churches, businesses, and alike to the conflict resolution model found in the Gospel of Matthew? I'll tell you what happened to it: LAWYERS AND PUBLIC OPINION! We fear man and what man can do to us instead of following CLEAR instructions from Jesus found in the Bible. To disobey Jesus' instructions on resolving conflict is just as heinous and blasphemous as disobeying His instructions on prayer or His instructions loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. We don't get to pick and choose which instructions we follow just because the American justice system has told us in man's wisdom that it's not the most prudent thing to do.

The lawyers and public opinion can take a flying leap for all I care. God's wisdom and God's ways matter. And if we are to ever see our churches and culture recover from the never ending harm done by gossip, slander, malicious speech and allegations, then we MUST start following Jesus' way for resolving conflict. If we don't, we are no different than the world and if we are no different than the world, then we will incur the same judgement as the world. It's that simple.

Consider this paragraph:
The Duke case proves that education does not render one immune from the propensity of jumping to a conclusion. Every time we are exposed to information, the temptation to draw a conclusion without considering facts and context is ever present

No matter how educated you are. Now matter how refined you think you are. Now matter what position you hold. No matter what reputation you think you have to protect. NOTHING, absolutely nothing, absolves you from doing it God's way. Either you do it God's way or you don't. It's that simple. From the lowest of society to the greatest, that's the great thing about the Bible, we are all bound to the same rules.

I think the article finishes with great words of advice and I'll let them close:

While innocent until proven guilty is a legal maxim that is applied to a court of law, it would a wise standard to adopt for life. The next time you are privy to a bit of negative gossip about someone, don't just jump to any old conclusion. Take some time to examine the broader context of the situation and see if any other facts emerge.

To avoid the temptation of jumping to a conclusion, remember that a person should be presumed innocent until he or she has been proven guilty. Additionally, nothing is meaningful without a context and all the facts are needed in order to have a complete picture of reality.

Jumping to conclusions has consequences, sometimes life-altering ones. "For lack of wood the fire goes out," Solomon wrote. "And where there is no whisperer (gossiper) contention quiets down." Wise words to remember the next time you are tempted to jump to a conclusion

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