Have you ever had someone you trusted and admired tell you about a speaker of whom he or she either thought highly or poorly? Perhaps it colored your thinking of that one’s lesson, even if only subconsciously. Have you ever had someone speak ill of a person, castigating their character or maligning their motives? Maybe, whether it was apparent to you or not, it influenced your view of that person. We human beings can have such an influence on one another. Our view and estimation of someone or something can be an overlay over another person’s point of view. That has powerful potential for good or evil.
Each of us has an obligation to think for ourselves, to evaluate people, preaching, programs, positions, problems, and the like. It is intellectual laziness to let another do our thinking for us. All individuals deserve to be evaluated by us based on what we observe first-hand.
It seems the Jews who dogged Paul’s missionary steps were trying to “poison the water” in every place Paul went (Acts 14:2,19;17:5). Demetrius did this to Paul in Macedonia (Acts 19:24ff). Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, in part, to dispel the untrue reports made against him that tainted some of the brethren’s view of him. What drove these men to try so hard to destroy Paul’s work and influence? It does not matter. It was indefensible behavior.
It is a mark of spiritual maturity for one to ignore the gossip, slander, and smearing of another. Each person is owed the charity of our unprejudiced acceptance before we draw our own conclusions. It is an exercise in which we would wish others to engage when considering us. May we have the grace to return the kindness (Luke 6:31).