It seems that in recent years, several groups of people have sought to use the Internet and in particular blogs to “expose” or “hold accountable” Christian leaders. And so often, we are prone to believe what other people say about a brother or sister in Christ, especially if it is critical or some sort of exposé. We may not be the ones to spread the gossip and slander, but we are not opposed to entertaining it either. The later I find more subtle and dangerous, because we can justify being uncharitable and unChristian by “a pursuit of the truth.” In most cases, Christian leaders are judged guilty until proven innocent.
This morning, I read a word from Octavius Winslow’s Morning Thoughts that addresses this sort of behavior directly. I want to provide the entire devotion for you below. Now, hear what Winslow is saying and not what he is not saying. We indeed should care for truth, integrity, godliness, and so on, but the way in which we honor truth must also honor the call to love one another as Christ has loved us. When it comes to busybodies on the Internet, anonymous bloggers calling out Christian leaders, or the like, it seems very unlikely that the driving principle and motivation of the heart is redemption and reconciliation expressed in genuine Christian love . . .
TRUE Christian love will excite in the mind a holy jealousy for the Christian reputation of other believers. How sadly is this overlooked by many professors! What sporting with reputation, what trifling with character, what unveiling to the eyes of others the weaknesses, the infirmities, and the stumblings of which they have become cognizant, marks many in our day. Oh! if the Lord had dealt with us as we have thoughtlessly and uncharitably dealt with our fellow-servants, what shame and confusion would cover us! We should blush to lift up our faces before men.
But the exercise of this divine love in the heart will constrain us to abstain from all envious, suspicious feelings, from all evil surmisings, from all wrong construing of motives, from all tale-bearing—that fruitful cause of so much evil in the Christian Church—from slander, from unkind insinuations, and from going from house to house retailing evil, and making the imperfections, the errors, or the doings of others the theme of idle, sinful gossip—“busy-bodies in other men’s matters.” All this is utterly inconsistent with our high and holy calling. It is degrading, dishonoring, lowering to our character as the children of God. It dims the luster of our piety. It impairs our moral influence in the world.
Ought not the character of a Christian professor to be as dear to me as my own? And ought I not as vigilantly to watch over it, and as zealously to promote it, and as indignantly to vindicate it, when unjustly aspersed or maliciously assailed, as if I, and not he, were the sufferer? How can the reputation of a believer in Jesus be affected, and we not be affected? It is our common Lord who is wounded—it is our common salvation that is injured—it is our own family that is maligned. And our love to Jesus, to His truth, and to His people, should caution us to be as jealous of the honor, as tender of the feelings, and as watchful of the character and reputation, of each member of the Lord’s family, be his denomination what it may, as of our own.
“Who is weak,” says the apostle, “and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?” Oh how graciously, how kindly does our God deal with His people! Laying His hand upon their many spots, He seems to say, “No eye but mine shall see them.” Oh! let us in this particular be “imitators of God, as dear children.” Thus shall we more clearly evidence to others, and be assured ourselves, that have “passed from death unto life.”