Howdy loves! Welcome to week two of Family Values. Last week we began this series talking about how We Can Disagree. Even in the family of God, there is room for differences of opinion, as long as the Bible is our standard. We aren’t going to agree on everything 100% – we aren’t expected to. We are expected, however, to have grace and kindness with each other. This week we will be discussing how in the family of God, We Assume the Best.
My husband worked at a church that had a staff creed posted in the hallways and bathrooms of their office. You could not walk anywhere without seeing the words, “We believe the best about each other.” They weren’t just stamped onto paper – those words infiltrated their culture. There was no room for gossiping about other people or divisive attitudes. People who assume the best about others don’t have room in their minds for those kinds of thoughts.
This does not come naturally for me. I’m an enneagram 2 so, I spend a lot of time wondering (and caring WAY too much) what people are thinking about me. “Are they happy with me? Did I offend them?” This Family Value speaks directly against my honed skill of creating false, negative scenarios. I usually dream up some elaborate story where I am the victim and someone is out to get me. Gross.
The truth is that I can’t be spiritually mature and think other people are out to get me. Number one: it’s just not true. I am surrounded by the world’s best people and am not a victim. In fact, I am an overcomer and anyone worth listening to will tell me that. Number 2: like we talked about last week, people aren’t our enemy. The enemy is our enemy.
With the exception of a handful of girls that I attended middle school with (ha!), I have had very few encounters with truly mean, hateful folks. The vast majority of people are genuine, hard working, and have good hearts.
The book of Philemon gives us a perfect example of choosing to assume the best in others. Paul met a man named Onesimus (a former slave) while he was in prison. He led him to the Lord, discipled him, and sent him out to do ministry. But Onesimus had a past (don’t we all).
He was a runaway slave. And to make matters more complicated, his former owner (Philemon), was a friend of Paul’s. Paul wanted to keep Onesimus with him, but he didn’t want to do anything to negatively affect his relationship with Philemon. So, Paul wrote him a letter. And in it, we are shown an amazing example of how to believe the best in others both from Paul’s perspective, as well as Philemon’s.
“If I am really your friend, give him the same welcome you would give to me if I were the one who was coming. If he has harmed you in any way or stolen anything from you, charge me for it. I will pay it back (I, Paul, personally guarantee this by writing it here with my own hand) but I won’t mention how much you owe me! The fact is, you even owe me your very soul! Yes, dear brother, give me joy with this loving act and my weary heart will praise the Lord.
I’ve written you this letter because I am positive that you will do what I ask and even more!
Please keep a guest room ready for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me come to you soon,” (Philemon 1:17-22 TLB).
This passage is bursting with assuming the best goodness!
- Paul assumed the best about Onesimus (verses 17-20). Paul’s new buddy used to have a bad reputation. He mentioned to Philemon that Onesimus might have stolen from him before he knew the Lord. He led him to the Jesus while in prison. Paul saw the potential that God put inside of him and assumed the best. We can all learn quite a bit from Paul’s example here. When someone makes a genuine commitment to the Lord, we should believe them. No one has to carry the weight of their past sin once they’ve bowed their knee to Jesus.
- Paul assumed the best about Philemon and his church (verse 21). Paul just knew that they would receive Onesimus warmly and take their hospitality beyond what he expected. Our lesson here is to believe the best about our spiritual leadership. This can be very hard to do, especially if you’ve been hurt by the church. Leaders are going to make mistakes. We have to find a way to forgive them when they do so that we are able to assume the best and trust the Holy Spirit in them.
- Paul assumed the best about God’s plan for him (verse 22). Paul believed that God would get him out of jail and back with the body of Christ. In fact, he had so much faith that he instructed them to get his room ready! What can we learn from his example? Do we trust that God is moving on our behalf? That His plan is for our good? Are we taking steps of faith because we know God is trustworthy?
I have a very dear friend who was telling me about a pastor who had a moral failure recently. She was mad at this pastor for messing up publicly. Really, she was mad at the Church as a whole. Pastors have hurt her so, she sees through that lens. Did this pastor screw up? Absolutely. Should he face consequences? Absolutely. He needs to get professional counseling and figure what broken patterns in his life led to these poor choices. He also needs to be surrounded by godly men who love him enough to rebuke him and restore him.
What he doesn’t need is for his spiritual family to point fingers in his face or rejoice in his failure. He is our brother in Christ. It should break our hearts when we see someone struggling or hurting. We should be so full of positive assumptions about people that our first impulse is to rush towards them to help them back up, not gossip about why/how they messed up.
“If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out,” (Galatians 6:1-2 MSG).
Paul and Philemon modeled this for us well. Onesimus would have been easy to reject. They had real reasons to keep him at arms length. Instead, they chose to believe the best about him and received him as a brother.
The very last thing that the world needs to experience right now is a divided, suspicious Church. Let’s assume the best about one another, our churches, and God and watch Him turn this world upside down.