My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. I John 4:1 (MSG)
Recently, a friend received an angry email purporting to know defamatory things about a mutual friend. I was copied and troubled because the communication was totally based on hearsay. I talked with my friend about a response—how does one deal with someone who is totally convinced of his own opinion and not open to discussion? I said I’d be praying.
To my immense admiration, my friend wrote a grace-filled letter acknowledging the anger of the writer while thanking him for taking time to write. He went on to explain the truth as he had personally experienced it. I think that we both thought that would be the end of the matter. But it wasn’t.
A few days letter, my friend got a response and again copied me. In the response, the antagonist stated that there were things about this person that he hadn’t previously known. He went on to say that he probably needed to find out the truth for himself, and to my surprise, presented himself at the next gathering where the man being criticized would be speaking.
I introduced the two men, and I watched carefully through the evening for any reaction from the letter writer. Sure enough, there was applause at certain times, nodding of the head, and smiles. And he came back the next day with the same reaction. He even participated later during the Q&A session. Because his initial angry query was greeted with understanding, grace, and love, he came to see for himself. And because he was a truth-seeker, he didn’t just take the word of a detractor, he came to see, and he came to listen.
We live in a time of great division, confusion, anger, and frustration. Proverbs 18:17 says, “He who pleads his cause first seems right; until another comes and questions him.” We seem unable to converse with someone who disagrees with us or someone who may hold another opinion. How will we ever come together if we can’t speak with open hearts and open minds? If we can’t listen? If we don’t try to understand? What happens when we dare not question one another?
It’s time we returned to God’s mandate: loving him and loving our neighbors. And that includes the way we speak to and treat each other. And when we disagree, we learn the truth for ourselves, and we continue to relate in love. We don’t buy into second- and third-hand stories. We verify, and then we live out the truth with grace and love.
Father, your royal law of love never changes. Help us to reach out to those with whom we have differences; help us to listen; and help us to love. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.