This Q&A focuses on the need for Christians to seek the truth.
Why are so many Christians willing to believe and share only one side of stories? Shouldn’t we be more mindful?
A: It has happened to all of us. We hear a story, an out of- context quote, or a prayer concern, and we assume (often incorrectly) that we know the entire story. A college-age child comes home on a holiday break and tells us what the professor said in the classroom. A prayer partner confides in us about a marital frustration. A friend shares a sensationalistic news headline on Facebook.
The problem has plagued humans throughout history. Scripture reminds us: “In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines,” (Proverbs 18:17).
In other words, the old adage is true: there are two sides to every story.
Forgetting that truth, it doesn’t take long for us to choose sides. We naturally trust the person who first tells us the story and are likely to take that person’s side. We want to believe the best about our friends and we forget that they may have their own blind spots, that their perspectives may be influenced by personal agendas, or that they may be trying to paint themselves in the best possible light.
Unfortunately, we sometimes act on this imperfect knowledge. We write letters condemning the professor who wasn’t entirely understood by the half-asleep college student. We find ourselves embroiled in the marital drama without having learned the perspective of the other spouse. Or we pass the news headline along as certain knowledge, not realizing that it was an internet hoax.
Sadly, the church is not always a safe refuge from imperfect knowledge. Our desire to believe the best about those we know and trust sometimes leads us to an embarrassing position where we realize that we didn’t know both sides of the story, and that we unfairly treated a brother or sister in Christ unfairly.
In John 7, the chief priests and the Pharisees send the temple guards to arrest Jesus and bring Him in for questioning. Unable to do so, the Sanhedrin appears to proceed to condemn Jesus in absentia. Nicodemus, who had previously gone to see Jesus, speaks up in Jesus’ defense, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” (John 7:51).
Scripture reminds us to hear both sides of any story in our quest for truth. As we offer redemption, let us listen and speak with love, grace, and compassion, remembering that there are two sides to every story. As we do, we trust God to bring about reconciliation, helping all parties to pursue truth.
Jon Twitchell currently serves the Nazarene Foundation as a vice president of Gift Planning.
Holiness Today, March/April 2017