I was recently checking the customer reviews for an upcoming hotel stay. The reviews were from verified members of the hotel club of that particular chain. 74% of the raters gave it the highest possible rating, but it was interesting to read the remarks of the smattering of people who ranked it poorly. One said, “I’d rather drive an extra 30 miles than stay at this hotel. The staff is impossible to deal with.” Another put, “This hotel is nothing more than regular. Expect nothing great for a high price. Bad choice for the night of your wedding.” A third wrote, “Very overpriced for quality of accommodations. Mold in bathroom, poor upkeep, poor bed quality. Would not recommend this hotel.” Surrounding these aberrations are gushing reviews overflowing with superlative words like “by far the best,” “amazing,” “could not have asked for better,” “very happy,” “very clean,” etc. My best guess is that somebody did something to upset the “exceptions” or, as experience has shown, the guests may not have handled themselves well and helped matters escalated.
Here is something that is certain. So often, our complaints, angry words, unrestrained speech, and foul mood reveals far more about who we are than the object of our disgruntlement. Two people could receive the same customer service and react completely differently. Two aggravated people express themselves totally unlike one another. The waitstaff may be lacking at a restaurant, and one encourages while another berates. A teacher may have a bad day and one student might sympathize while another brutalizes.
Paul urged Colosse, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6). This is said in the context of evangelism, though the principle prevails in all our interactions. The late Wendell Winkler often said, “If you are not kind, you are the wrong kind.” Are we cognizant of the power of our tongues to heal or kill (Pro. 18:21)? Jesus says, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man” (Mat. 15:18). More than once, my parents admonished me in my formative years to “watch my mouth!” What sage advice for grown-ups, too! We might think we have good hearts, but our words reveal who we really are!
Occasionally, I run across someone whose sincerity and earnestness I do not doubt but whose manner and tack are incredibly brusque, confrontational, and antagonistic. These same ones seem to frame questions disingenuously, almost as if to entrap you with the information they think they already know or pin you to positions they already believe you take. They may be quick to want to ascertain whose side you are on or what your stand is, even in matters that can be terribly complex and not so easy to answer. Their seeming attitude toward others is that they are guilty until proven innocent or that the ones they are examining are innately unwilling to stand up for what they, the “examiner,” believe is the truth.
This same belligerent approach was often taken by the Jewish leaders during Jesus’ ministry. They would come up with a scenario for Him simply to entrap Him or try and use His words against Him. Even though Jesus always answered correctly and never sinned or took a “wrong position,” they eventually twisted His words as part of their ploy to have Him crucified.
Ironically, these would deem themselves God’s staunchest defenders of the faith. Yet, through deceit, manipulation, unrighteous judgment, and the like, they reflect worldliness and fleshly works which God addresses in scripture. In Galatians five, Paul calls such things as “contentions,” “outbursts of wrath,” “selfish ambitions,” and “dissensions” works of the flesh (20). In instructions on dealing with one another, Paul tells Ephesus that such things as “bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (4:31-32).
There are brethren in Christ who have compromised God’s truth, and this has sadly occurred in every part of the country. That is not what is under consideration here. There are also some who are intent on redrawing smaller and smaller circles of fellowship all the time. They are using as criteria laws they have made and standards that are from themselves. No one can very easily or for very long stay inside their circle. But let us not be bullied or intimidated into thinking that something is wrong with us if we do not walk lockstep with the belligerent. Let us pray for them and continue to have the courage to speak what is truly truth in a way that is truly loving!