Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
When we engage with other believers, do we generally assume the best or the worst of them? I would guess that if we know that person and consider that person a friend, we would assume the best. How about if there is a disagreement? How would that affect your thinking or mental response to that person, much less one with whom you do not necessarily get along?
The biblical ethic of love means that we will love our fellow brother and/or sister in the Lord. Our response is a moral matter.
Think of Paul’s words: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:29-32).
And think of James’ words: “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (Jms. 5:9).
And finally, ponder John’s words: “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 Jn. 4:19-21).
With these biblical texts in mind, read slowly the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon as he applies this truth (Treasury of the New Testament; HT: Ray Ortlund):
We should be merciful to one another in seeking never to look at the worst side of a brother’s character. Oh, how quick some are to spy out other people’s faults! They hear that Mr. So-and-so is very useful in the church, and they say, ‘Yes, he is, but he has a very curious way of going to work, has he not? And he is so eccentric.’ Well, did you ever know a good man who was very successful, who was not a little eccentric? . . .
Do you go out when the sun is shining brightly and say, ‘Yes, this sun is a very good illuminator, but I remark that it has spots’? If you do, you had better keep your remark to yourself, for it gives more light than you do, whatever spots you may have or may not have. And many excellent persons in the world have spots, but yet they do good service to God and to their age.
So let us not always be the spot-finders, but let us look at the bright side of the brother’s character rather than the dark one, and feel that we rise in repute when other Christians rise in repute, and that, as they have honor through their holiness, our Lord has the glory of it, and we share in some of the comfort of it.
May we not be “spot-finders” but rather give honor to the other in love.