By Viki Rife
“I can’t stand the lack of hygiene here!” the young man told me indignantly. “It literally makes me sick to my stomach.”
He was staying with a family in the country where he planned to serve as a missionary. Knowing the family, I found my respect for them plummeting. He continued, “When we’re done eating, she just brushes the crumbs off the table directly onto the floor!”
I was a bit puzzled. “What should she do?” I asked.
“She’s supposed to brush them into her hand and take them to the trash can,” he replied.
I have to confess his idea grossed me out. Having grown up in that country, I assumed it was normal to brush the crumbs onto the floor. You see, the floors were ceramic tile, and every good homemaker swept her dining room floor after every single meal. She sometimes mopped it several times a day as well. Personally, I’d rather have other people’s crumbs on the bottom of my shoe than in my hand. It became obvious that the young man either hadn’t seen his hostess sweep her floor or had closed his mind to it.
Lately I’ve thought about that conversation often as I watch tempers flare and opinions fly about the "right way to do things." Indignation seems to rule the day. Even more disconcerting is how easily the indignation gets passed on as what amounts to slander against others.
Of course, most of the discussions are much weightier than what happens with crumbs after a meal. Some of the concerns are very legitimate concerns. However, let’s keep in mind that Jesus told us knowing the truth would set us free. This not only applies to knowing the one who is Truth, but extends to how we handle truth in our everyday lives. May I suggest some guidelines for dealing with the things we “can’t stand”?
- Ask God to help us find truth. That should be our daily ambition—living in truth. It’s the enemy who wants to deceive us with half-truth or outright lies. We must remember that we are in a spiritual battle, and the father of lies wants to steal, kill and destroy all that is holy and good.
- Make sure we have all the facts. As a journalism student, I was taught that journalists carry a heavy responsibility to make sure they present the facts objectively, leaving their own preferences out of their reporting. It seems that now, however, journalism ethics have been thrown out the window. The media on both sides of an argument uses trigger words and skewed slants to sway the reader to their point of view—the very things we were taught to be on guard against! One thing I love about the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts is that Luke carefully researched the truth and then offered a full, orderly account. Partial information can be very misleading.
- Do our own research. Before we react to what we hear, we have a responsibility before God of making sure we know the whole story. Recently I read an article on a major network that repeated a glaring error, claiming a political figure had said something outrageous. I had personally seen the video of what the individual actually said. It’s hard to believe the reporter boldly stated something that could so easily have been disproved. I wonder how many people bought the narrative that the politician was stupid enough to have actually said such a thing. Again, we as believers are responsible to avoid slander. We cannot afford to blindly repeat slanderous accusations. It’s a matter of integrity. Due diligence takes time and energy, but if we haven’t confirmed the truth, let’s not pass on divisive perspectives.
- Recognize that there may be truth to be learned from those who have different views. No group or individual has a corner on the truth. We are each responsible to make sure we have the big picture as we seek to discern between right and wrong. God places great value on truth, and we must do the same. Evidence of our commitment to truth is whether we’re willing to consider and evaluate opposing views in order to make sure we are responding with full truth.
- There isn’t only one right way to do things. Of course my own way makes more sense than anyone else’s! But does that mean it’s right? Let’s give others room to draw their own conclusions about what is best.
- Steer clear of stereotyping and jumping to conclusions. You do not have God’s knowledge of what sins people have committed, so be very careful. We think we can judge the heart of another based on their skin color or social status. God is responsible for that decision, not us. Treat every individual as what he or she is, a precious being whom God lovingly made in his own image.
As God’s ambassadors here on earth, it is our privilege to represent Him to a world that needs the hope only He can give. We don’t have to bite and devour one another. Instead, we are called to seek truth together, with hearts open to what God wants to reveal to us.