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Before you talk about someone …

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BP)–Perhaps every person at some time in his or her life dreams of one day rising to the top of the social order and becoming known to virtually everyone else.

When we were young many of us thought that such recognition would bring with it universal popularity, respect and admiration. Now that we’ve been around the block a time or two, we know that that is rarely the case. We’ve seen in the lives of high-profile individuals, and may have experienced it ourselves as we’ve become more widely known, that it is not unusual for public figures to have at least as many critics as they do admirers. And, they often become the targets of some vicious and unfair attacks, allegations and accusations.

However we get our news — from the print media, over the airwaves or online — we’re reminded of that reality continually and repeatedly, especially, it seems, during political seasons like the one we’re in. Every candidate, but especially those who polls say are in the lead, is accused of all manner of character flaws; and, of course, they deny the allegations and plead with the public to give them the benefit of the doubt.

That’s exactly what baseball great Roger “the Rocket” Clemens did, beginning with CBS’s “60 Minutes” program recently. He called charges made by his former personal trainer “hogwash” and expressed his anger and deep disappointment that people had assumed that the Mitchell Report reflected the truth about him.

I think I can understand a person feeling that way, especially if that person knows the allegations are untrue and especially if people had formed their opinions about the guilt of the accused before giving that person the opportunity to present his or her story. Of course, even guilty people declare their innocence — our prisons are full of such folks. Sadly, some of them are found to be innocent after spending years unjustly imprisoned.

How are we supposed to know whom we can believe?

Have you considered that maybe the Lord would rather you spend your time obeying His Word — which we can believe absolutely from cover to cover — than with bothering to figure out whose version of reality is more accurate regarding the multitude of stories we hear day after day? Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). So the question we should first ask ourselves is: How would I like others to treat me when they hear unflattering things about me?

In answering that question for myself, I’m pretty sure that if I was accused of bad behavior I was not guilty of, I wouldn’t want my brothers and sisters in Christ automatically to assume that any and all allegations they hear about me are true, talk about me behind my back and withhold their Christ-like compassion and heartfelt prayers for me — especially before giving me an opportunity to speak for myself but also after giving me such an opportunity and hearing my denials. If, on the other hand, there’s a nugget of truth or more in the allegations, I should certainly “come clean,” but I still wouldn’t appreciate my fellow believers talking behind my back or withholding their compassion and prayers for me.

Clearly, Christ’s Golden Rule requires us to give others the benefit of any doubt that may be warranted. Besides, our Lord warns us, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). If we really believe what He says, we’ll do what He tells us to do.

I certainly hope that you understand that the above applies not only in our responsibility toward that shrinking list of candidates from which we’ll select our nation’s next leader or those who will eventually be considered for induction for some sport’s Hall of Fame, it applies also, and perhaps more so, to our responsibility toward those in positions of leadership at our local churches and those cooperative ventures our churches support — our associations and state and national conventions. Let’s face it: When we act like Jesus commands us to act in our dark and dying world, it will be as noticeable as light shining in the darkness.

Oh yeah, Jesus had something to say about that too, didn’t He? He said, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). What do you say we do that, not for any glory we may get but for that of which He is so worthy!
John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican, the newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.

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  • John Loudat