Thursday, April 30, 2009

Things we don't understand

One of the things that I use to keep connected with the outside world is a web-service called Twitter. Now, you may have no use for keeping the world updated with 140-character shouts of what you are doing. Or, you may not have time to wade through all the people that want to be your friend in the same way your neighborhood Amway family wanted to be your friend: Yeah, that's great, and I can sell you __________to help with it! If you don't have the courage to block or not follow people you can't imagine needing to follow, or that are obviously trying to sell you stuff, stay off Twitter. You'll only frustrate yourself.

But, one of the great things on Twitter is that there are a few celebrity types that use it, and they actually keep up with it themselves. I follow a few, selected celebrities. They are, in no particular order, Mark Lee (guitarist for Third Day), Mac Powell (lead singer for Third Day), Third Day's official Twitter feed, Mark Hall (Casting Crowns lead singer) (what can I say? If downhere had a twitter feed, I'd follow them. That would cover my music), Thom Rainer (president of Lifeway Christian Resources), Sam Rainer (Church Consultant), and Phil Johnson (executive director, Grace to You; also blogger-supreme at Pyromaniacs) and Frank Turk (blogger extraordinaire at Pyromaniacs and his own blog). Then there's some busines authors, some political people (Congressman Mike Ross is on Twitter), and I take a news feed from ESPN.

Do all of these follow me back? Nope. the Rainers do, ESPN does (I think they just courtesy follow, and never read it). But that's okay. I have about 20 people that follow me that I don't follow, because I don't want their every 5 minutes cluttering up my feed.

It was on Mark Hall's feed that I saw something interesting a few days ago. While I was happily in Kansas, he was in North Korea. No, he wasn't giving them our rocket secrets, that much I'm sure of. I know that Casting Crowns, and Mark and his wife especially, have been involved in charity and relief work in North Korea for a few years now. This isn't his first trip. In fact, they were invited to perform at the country's spring arts festival. Back to what Mark said on twitter, here's his post:

I've been reading some articles about our trip to N Korea. It's amazing how much you can write and have no idea what your talking about. -markhallcc on twitter, 6:23AM April 21st.

Now, I'm not trying to attack their trip (not that I could. The DPRK is quite probably the most isolated country in the world. The opportunity to go and sing Christ-centered music is exceptional) or defend it (after all, by going they might be seen to be endorsing the DPRK's personality cult for their leaders), but I wanted to look at his quote, "It's amazing how much you can write and have no idea what your[sic] talking about"

How often do we do this? I know that I do, occasionally, launch off on a criticism or a praise of someone or some action without knowing the full facts. I think our greatest tendency is to criticize people when their actions don't measure up to our ideals. We're pretty quick to do this in the church, and it's part of what I think is tearing us apart at the seams in the SBC especially.

Now, I know that many of us have, in our minds, every right to be cynical and jaded, and suspicious of the motives and hidden agendas of people around us, because we've been burned before, hurt before, embarassed, criticized or ridiculed. So, we walk around with our defenses up, our paranoia in tune, and are ready to pounce as soon as someone says something. After all, it's not really paranoia if they are out to get you, right?

I'd like to encourage you, first of all, to back off on the cynicism. Not everyone has ulterior motives, not everyone is out to destroy everything in the world you stand for. Really. They aren't. Take people at face value, give them the benefit of the doubt.

But wait, you say! I could get blindsided by something! I could be wronged by another person if I let my guard down! To that I say this: YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! You could be wronged. What should you do about it? Well, I'd start here:

7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren.

1 Cor 6:7-8 (NASB)

That's the part we overlook in 1 Corinthians 6. We read it, and claim to abide by the passage where the Bible explicitly condemns taking issues between believers into unbelieving courts, but then we qualify it out with "Well, they wouldn't resolve it the way I needed it resolved, so I had to take them to court. It was my last option." No, it wasn't. Your last option was to read verse 7, and allow yourself to be wronged and defrauded by your brother in Christ. That's right. Let it happen, rather than bring the world's reproach on the body of Christ by your lawsuit.

How does this come back to Mark Hall's quote? We so often jump into issues without knowing both sides, because we're preparing to defend ourselves, rather than allow God to deal with the issue. Rather than accept Paul's words, and let ourselves be wronged by another, and let God vindicate us, we jump in quickly to attack first, and ask later.

We then end up overreaching what we really know, and instead find ourselves making statements about things that we just don't understand.

I want to encourage you to take time and listen to what people are saying. Then, turn off your cynical thoughts, and trust them to mean it. When people seek your advice, give them your honest opinion, but when they don't, leave it alone. You can always just stay out of it if you can't endorse it.

Now, there are issues of Biblical truth that shouldn't be ignored, and there are times and places to address things like how a group that claims to be a church is behaving unbiblically or wrong behavior by a minister. But those are not the things I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fact that you can't really paint every situation with the same brush. A pastor that calls off Sunday night services to encourage family time? If that's what he has prayerfully put together for his flock, leave him alone. A pastor that calls off Sunday night services to have drunken beer parties to meet new sinners? That calls for a rebuke.

We need to get back to trusting individual believers to make decisions based on the Word of God and the Holy Spirit's guidance in their lives.

At least that's my opinion. Read into it whatever you like....


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