Thirsting For God (2)

Thirsting For God (2)

Some time ago I posted on a book I have been reading by Gary L Thomas called: ‘Thirsting For God’. This is the second part of a review of my findings thus far. Consider this long, but interesting quote.

‘Replacing a vice with a virtue can be used to change our social environments. I once worked in a grocery store….and the backbiting and slander there were abominable. After praying about the situation I came up with a plan. When I was alone with one worker I solicited a positive reply about another worker by asking a leading question. “Don’t you think Mary is good with customers?”

The co-worker answered, “Yes I do, she really knows what she’s talking about.”

I waited until the next shift when I was alone with Mary. “Susan talked to me today about how helpful you are wit the customers. She said it’s obvious you know your stuff.”

“Oh, really? Mary said. “Susan’s a sweet gal; she’s a great person to work with.”

Of course, the next time I worked with Susan I recounted what Mary had said. I repeated the same plan with as many co-workers as possible, spreading as much “positive gossip” as I could.

The atmosphere in our department changed as the virtues of encouragement and appreciation took route. Giving my workers a sermon about the evils of gossip  would certainly not have had the same effect.’ (p86)

What is our immediate response to this story? His point is that instead of finding ways to engage in criticism and unholy behaviour we should be actively seeking to find ways to be a positive influence and Godly example to those around us. I couldn’t agree more and I wonder what the reaction would be if we were to all try this tactic in our churches tomorrow?

It is a beautiful thing when brothers and sister live together in harmony and peace. It is a biblical command that we are to love and serve one another but am I alone in thinking that this smacks a little bit of manipulation? I am sure that is not his intention, but surely our place is to lead by example, set the moral tone and act in a counter cultural manner in front of the watching world? But to whisper sweet nothings in their ear as a means to bringing about change? Hmmm….I hesitate here. Real change must be heart change, surely?

It is true that we can’t just wander around and expect people to ‘behave’ as Christians (not even Christians are capable of that) but I think the better way is how we talk about Susan in front of Mary and vice versa. Maybe that is what we should be doing in our own congregations when someone comes to bend our ear about another. Maybe the trick should be a quick prayer of careful repentance before finding a measured response which points to positive characteristics rather than joining forces and revelling in those aspects we are united in disliking.

Gossip is a ‘respectable sin’ according to Jerry Bridges and it is a pernicious one. Many a reputation has been damaged as the result of a careless word or idle gossip exaggerated into fact.

I like this book and I can see what he is trying to achieve. But real, deep heart change comes by a work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. Any change without deep repentance as a precursor is destined to be superficial and temporary. We need to be careful of false holiness and false fruit in the lives of those around us, and most particularly, our own walk with God.