For those of you who know my story, I ran from God for a long time. When I finally made a decision to follow Christ, a radical change took place in my lifestyle and I’ve been on an adventure with Christ for over 35 years now. Even though I never even thought about being a pastor or in any kind of ministry, shortly after I trusted Christ I experienced God’s call on my life to be involved in full time ministry vocationally.
I’ve had good and bad experiences in ministry. I’ve developed life-long friendships and have experienced the devastation of betrayal in the local church. I’ve seen great churches get sidetracked by the enemy time and time again and it usually follows the same path. If a church is seriously trying to make an impact for Jesus Christ in the world – striving to reach people with the Gospel – then Satan will do everything he can to sidetrack or derail that church.
Satan may try attacking the church from without – which in many cases strengthens the church. But what I’ve seen happen most of the time is that he tries to attack from within and this is usually done in one of two ways….. 1) He’ll entice a leader into sin and then expose that leader/pastor which causes greater distrust among the people or diverts the energy of sharing Christ to the energy of trying to heal the wounds left by the tragedy. 2) He’ll get two members of the body at odds with each other and create a form of disunity within the body. This second attack is most common and happens over and over.
Paul Billheimer in his classic work Love Covers says the sin of disunity is Satan’s master strategy and has probably caused more souls to be lost than all other sins combined.
Most of the issues & destruction of disunity could be resolved and relationships be rebuilt if we’d just follow Jesus prescription for unity in Matthew 18:15-17.
Here’s what’s so sad. Someone get’s their feelings hurt over some issue, or maybe they’re not really walking with God and allow some situation to get the best of them. In their anger, frustration, hurt or rebellion they decide to share their story with a few friends instead of dealing with the issue as Jesus commanded. This is a sign that they are either not mature or that they don’t want to submit to God’s command. Either way, it’s a dangerous place to be and that makes them dangerous to listen to.
Even when our friends share something disparaging about someone but do it in a joking manner as if they don’t mean it, we need to be careful. Samuel Chand in his incredible book Cracking Your Church Culture Code says: “Gossip…..isn’t innocent fun. It’s a form of undercover revenge designed to harm someone.”
However – as friends – we tend to listen to those we know best and usually take their side of the story at face value. Maybe that’s why the book of wisdom states: The person who tells one side of a story seems right, until someone else comes and asks questions (Prov. 18:17 NCV).
When I was in another city and church years ago, I was in a very solid men’s small group. One of the guys would come to the group and share like everyone else and was a good friend. After a while, he started missing the group periodically and finally quit coming. When we finally were able to get with him, we found out he was having an emotional affair with a woman in his church and was thinking of leaving his wife. NOTE: This had been going on for months, yet we had no idea b/c HE WAS OUR FRIEND & WE TRUSTED HIM – plus HE KNEW THE RIGHT WORDS TO SAY in the group. I’m thankful that after our confrontation and working with him that he returned to his wife and they rebuilt their relationship.
My point is that when an issue comes up that is causing a conflict for a friend; one where they are saying detrimental things about a church or person – or one where they’re talking about leaving – etc……there are usually 2 sides to the story and if we are the kind of friends we should be, we’ll help them (or hold them accountable) to sort through the issues and find a way to resolve those issues. In other words, if I was having a problem with John Smith (fictitious) and kept talking about it with you – blaming John for my issues or problems – then as my friend you should say: “Have you gone to John and talked to him about this to try and get it resolved?” If I said “no” – then that’s the next step you’d need to encourage me to take. If I said “yes, but it didn’t do any good”, then as my friend you should say to me – “Well, why don’t we go see John together and see if we can’t resolve the issue in a positive way.”
I realize that not all problems are going to be worked out, but many could be if we’d follow Jesus’ prescription for unity. In addition, when people talk to us about someone else, we usually don’t have all the facts, and just b/c they are our friends doesn’t mean that their heart or spirit is right with God in the matter. That’s why it’s critical that we respond in a mature fashion and not from an emotional platform. Again – the book of wisdom reminds us: Don’t get mixed up in someone else’s fight as you are passing by. That’s like picking a dog up by its ears. (Prov. 26:17 NIrV) You wouldn’t go pick up a pit bull by its ears and shake it; in the same way it’s dangerous to take up someone else’s quarrel – ESPECIALLY when you don’t have both sides of the argument!
Yes, there are always 2 sides to every story. Sometimes our friends side of the story is absolutely accurate, and sometimes it’s not. Regardless, we need to encourage them to find a solution to their issue in a mature/biblical manner (Mt. 18:15-17). Remember; the wise thing to do is make sure you’ve heard both sides of a story before you make a decision about anything that might impact you – your family – your influence for the kingdom of God and His bride (the Church)!