I have been pondering something I heard on Wednesday night as I returned from preaching the last of four revival sermons at Maggie Valley UMC. I was, as I often do, scanning my radio dial listening for a) oldies rock and roll--the kind I used to play years in ago in a handful of garage bands; or b) a good radio preacher. The former is easier to find than the latter, to be sure, and some of the preaching that you can find is, shall we say (and especially in view of the balance of this email), less than wonderfully edifying.
Anyway, I stumbled by grace onto a station carrying a preacher by name of Alistair Begg, of whom I had never heard, from Parkway Church near Cleveland, with which I am unfamiliar. In a beautiful Scottish brogue (he came to the US with his family in 1983 to serve the Parkway church), he was teaching/preaching on The Epistle of James. To conclude the sermon he quoted an Episcopal priest of the 19th century, Charles Simeon, who is considered by many to be the father of the evangelical movement in England (Wesleyans might disagree!). The link to the sermon in its entirety is below.
What I most want to share, though, is the quote from Simeon--for it has occupied much of my thinking yesterday and today. It is rather stately, typical of British prose, and you may have to chew on it a bit (especially number 3, which I think I heard correctly), but the truth is simple enough: that slander, what I have called "bad gossip," is a sin the Bible takes very seriously. The sin proceeds from the "vain imagination" by which we presume to have knowledge enough and right to judge another's actions or motives. Anyway, according to Mr. Begg, Simeon was writing to a colleague in the ministry when he penned these words:
"The longer I live the more I feel the importance of adhering to the rules which I have laid-out for myself, which are as follows: 1) To hear as little as possible what is to the prejudice of others; 2) To believe nothing of the kind until absolutely forced to; 3) Never to drink into the spirit of one to circulate an ill report; 4) Always to moderate as far as I can the unkindness which is expressed towards others; and 5) Always to believe, that if the other side were heard, a very different account would be given of the matter."
Mr. Begg concluded by saying that Charles Simeon often said to his friends, "Let us sit upon the seat of love instead of the seat of judgment."
I find those "rules" fit not just for an English divine, but meet and right for me, too, day to day. If I can adopt such a posture in all my conversations, it will be evidence of the Peace of Christ--both in and through me. Which is to say, Christ, the Prince of Peace, has given us his Peace, that we ourselves might be peacemakers.