Sometimes it seems like everywhere I go, I hear people grumbling about others. Maybe it’s me. Maybe people consider me a fellow grumbler and are comfortable unburdening themselves in my presence. But I’m inclined to believe it’s actually all of us and we all find some kind of catharsis in complaining about people. Even backstage at conferences with theological heavyweights it’s not unusual to hear names being used and misused, to hear facts being traded back and forth. I wish I was exempt, that I was nobler than this, but even I can soon slip into it. It appears to be a universal temptation and a near-universal sin.
I have come to hate it. I hate it in others and hate it far more in myself. I hate that we feel free to speak poorly of other believers. I hate how easily we drop facts that are designed to make us think less of others instead of more. I hate how we feel better about ourselves when we’ve made our friends feel worse about someone else. I hate that we try to elevate ourselves by demeaning others.
I’ve recently been struck by this thought, this illustration. Imagine you are in a palace and speaking to one of the king’s friends or advisors. While you love the king, you have far less respect for his son, the prince. Within the king’s palace, you are going to be very careful with how you speak, very judicious with every word you utter. Why? Because the king is nearby! The king may even be just around the corner, within earshot. He may be listening, and the consequences will be fearful if he hears you speaking ill of his child. And it’s not just fear that will motivate you, but also love. You love the king and don’t want to hurt him by speaking wounding words about the child he loves. Who are you, his subject, to besmirch his child?
The fact is, the King is listening. The King is always within earshot. He is listening attentively and he loves his blood-bought child far more than any earthly king loves his prince.
If you would simply consider how much God loves that other person, you would never speak ill of him. If you would consider the work God has accomplished for that person and in that person, you would only ever speak words that esteem him. You would guard every word, you would commend every grace.