It was good to be home in Washington this weekend. Pastor Jonathan was away, so I was blessed to speak at Alife. God has blessed me with wonderful connections around the world, but my church community at home is the letter of credentials to the message of my life. Thank you Alife for being the family of God that represents the present grace of God in the earth. I am a blessed to be a part of a local church community filled with life!
Today I am addressing a ninth attribute of a culture of honor in a community of Christ. The ninth value in a culture is one of protecting the reputation of another. Once again, these values are brought about by a supernatural change of God in our hearts and minds. Societies of the world can only at best seek to emulate or legislate these attributes, but in a culture of honor these things must become part of the substance of our character. We cannot expect the people of the world or the societies of the world to be able to embrace these values, but we can demonstrate what they look like by being an expression of the community of Christ in the earth. We cannot judge those who do not walk in these values, we can only reveal these values in our own lives and invite others to experience the life-changing transformation of Christ within their own hearts that brings these things to a true reality. We can judge that to violate these values will bring about death and dysfunction in the societies of the world, but the violation of these values has already brought judgment to the societies of the world. By demonstrating the supernatural change empowered by God’s grace in our own lives we will shine like a light to welcome those bound to the judgment of dysfunction and death to the judgment of God’s mercy and the empowerment of His grace that can change them as well. If these things are merely commands they can only control a society. This can have a value, but its only value is to reveal the need for true change of hearts and minds that can only happen by the grace of God in Christ. Outside of Christ law is a tutor that leads us to the true change that can only be found in Christ. This is also true for the human conscience apart from Christ.
Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
This is not a commandment. It is a value. We must do everything we can to protect another’s reputation. We can easily see that this value sets the boundary of telling the truth. We must never lie about another human being. We must never lie, but we must also be careful in how we present the truth, or our perceived version of the truth. Love covers a multitude of sins and we must always seek to speak the truth in love. Just speaking the perceived facts about another person is not speaking the truth in love. Just covering up the iniquities of another is not speaking the truth either. When we speak the truth about another we must seek to speak in a way that invites life. Love does everything it can to protect the reputation of another. In the book of Jude, it says that when people speak bad about sent authority or about one another they do so because they don’t understand who another is. They don’t value relationships; they don’t value life. Jude says that when they do this they are like spots and blemishes among us. They want to focus on problems. Instead of being a part of the family they become a problem. They speak evil based on things that they think are true naturally or even things that are true about another naturally. My wife and I have been married for over 39 years. I know things about my wife that I will never tell you and she knows things about me that she will never tell you, because we will not dishonor one another. We will not damage one another’s reputations. Some things I would say would be things she would do that she doesn’t do. Some things she does I may think are wrong, but they might not be wrong. It is my perception. This would also be true from her perspective towards me. Some things she thinks about me are wrong, might be wrong and they might not be. We will never publicly say something that will damage one another. If we were to do so, we would quickly search for the grace of God to bring healing to one another. My wife and I have this down pretty good. We cover one another’s reputation. It becomes harder as the family grows. It is easy for me to protect the reputation of my immediate family, but when neighbors move into the neighborhood I might tell someone they did something wrong. God sees everyone in the same way I see my immediate family. I would protect the reputation of my immediate family members. I have found in life that good people have bad problems. I have discovered that good people sometimes do bad things. As a grandpa, I have no problem changing the diapers of my grandchildren. I don’t complain, because I am grandpa and I love them. Where love lives anything can be done. I am an anointed diaper changer! I can clean the bottoms of my grandchildren with an anointing and I can make it an experience of life. I want people to feel better about life and about themselves because I am in their lives. I want people to have a positive expectation about me. I don’t go around my community telling everyone about what my grandchildren’s bottoms look like. You thought these were holy children! You won’t believe this. I have discovered that poop comes out their bottoms. Sometimes it really stinks! I don’t do that. I protect their reputations. I do that for family.
We must value one another’s reputation. We are never justified in saying things about one another simply because they are naturally true or we think they are naturally true. When we wound the reputation of someone else we wound our own reputation. We must always do everything we can to protect another’s reputation.
I have discovered that I don’t just go to churches to preach. I have found that some churches I am in relationship with have problems that become my problems. I have to speak wisdom. I have to help leaders and congregations make decisions that are life-giving and not reputation damaging. When we deal with issues in people’s lives, the answer is not what the word requires us to do. We have preconceived ideas as to what the word means. Matthew, chapter 18 says that if a brother is found in sin we are to go to them and try to help them hear us. If they don’t hear us we are to bring mature leaders with us in our appeal to them. If they don’t listen, we can have the church try to reach them. The church is those they are in relationship with. It is not just a crowd of people who confess to be Christians. It is people in community together. These are people who love them. The idea is to help the person, not to judge them. If they don’t listen treat them like sinners and tax collectors. How do you treat sinners and tax collectors? Do you hate them? Do you try to damage them? Do you attempt to destroy their reputation in the community? Do you damage the reputation of your sinner community by telling everyone how bad sinners sin? You know they are sinners. Do you judge dogs for barking? Do you judge animals for acting like animals? Do you judge sinners for sinning? Sinners sin! When someone acts like a sinner you treat them as one. You don’t put righteous expectations upon them. You don’t share covenant with them. You might have a dinner and invite them to have a relationship with God, but you don’t participate with them in their sin. You don’t seek to be confrontational with sinners. You simply don’t go their way. You invite them to follow you. Sinners and tax collectors liked to be with Jesus. Jesus ate with them, but He didn’t live with them. He walked off and some sinners followed Him. He didn’t damage the reputation of a sinner; their reputation was already damaged.
Ted J. Hanson