Almost all radio listeners know the feeling of wonderment upon hearing Paul Harvey announce, “And, now you know the rest of the story.” It is incredible how he weaves his magic in words. How does he do it?
Well, he does it by merely skirting around the truth or leaving out part of the story until the very last. For, unless we know all of the facts, it is virtually impossible to reach a correct conclusion. To his credit, Mr. Harvey tells us the rest of the story. This makes for interesting radio copy. It is part of the mystique that has made him famous.
Most, however, are painfully aware of the fact that a vast array of human relationships have suffered as a result of someone leaving out part of the story or skirting around the truth. This is not usually done in fun or merely for the sake of capturing someone’s attention. Many families and many Christian communities have been rent asunder by those who deviously practice such deeds.
What is even sadder still? It is almost impossible to turn off the torrent once the flood gates of half-truths have been opened. Instead of these stories finally fizzling out, it seems that they gain momentum. Perhaps this is because of our carnal nature. We become enamored with the seedy side of things far too easily. Whatever it is that causes this—wherever it comes from—it is to our discredit and disgrace if we choose to carry on with the charade.
In this regard Solomon’s wisdom counsels: “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” (Proverbs 26:20) It is easy to just accept whatever we hear, because “the words of a gossip are delicate morsels…” (Proverbs 26:22) It is not easy, however, to resist the temptation to imbibe these delicate morsels. It is even more difficult still, if we are put in a position of having heard some juicy tidbit, to seek the truth. For, such a quest often makes one unpopular with those who want to influence us with the tales they are bearing. And, it seems to be very difficult indeed to admonish those who persist in talebearing. But, all of these are expected of us by God!
There is such a great potential for hurting one another when we react without knowing the rest of the story. Since this is the case, it behooves God’s people to consider some additional thoughts in this regard.
First, be wary of the great danger inherent in jumping to conclusions.
This can cause contentions to persist needlessly. When we are informed as to only one point of view, our perspective is distorted. How will our conclusions be correct? Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”
The damage done by drawing conclusions without a grasp of the pertinent facts is immeasurable. We should not draw any conclusions about a matter unless or until we have spoken to all parties involved. Parents who are attempting to resolve conflicts between their children know this to be true. Consider this classic example: A Christian man moved to a new community. Shortly thereafter, he witnessed a sight which caused great trepidation. A “top-less bar” was located within sight of his place of employment. For several days running he noticed that the worship leader from the church he had recently joined was making afternoon visits to this disreputable establishment. He was aghast!
Well, when he was with his new Christian family for mid-week prayer services, he requested a meeting with the spiritual shepherds to discuss what he described as “a matter of urgency and gravity”. The leadership consented. Every person present gave him their undivided attention. He struggled a bit with what he had to report, but finally got it out. As he spoke a couple of shepherds resisted the urge to smile. One had to bite his tongue to keep from interrupting him.
When he paused for a breath one of them commended him for his concern and gently informed him that according to Jesus’ teaching he really should be talking to this brother instead of meeting with them. In this case they would save him the trouble, though. He had allowed himself to get worked up over nothing, because they knew this brother was going to this “strip bar” every afternoon. In fact, they said that he’d frequented similar places for years. Then they informed him that this man is an investigator for the state. He was seeking evidence in a pending case against this business. It was all too clear that his perspective was distorted and his conclusion was not correct.
Second, we must be alert to the menacing malady of spiritual myopia.
People who suffer from this vision disorder realize that things come into focus at very close distances. Up close, it is obvious what they are. However, things at greater distances aren’t so clear. It is very hard to make them out. Such is often the case in human relationships. Paul made an interesting observation about human failings in 1 Timothy 5:24. He stated: “The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.”
In many instances, what certain individuals have done wrong is very clear. The temptation, because of our myopic way of viewing things, is to see only these errors. However, the inspired observation states that “the sins of others trail behind them.” It is not an absolute rule, but it happens more often than not that when two or more people have conflict there is usually enough sinning going on for everyone to be afflicted. It is the old law of “cause and effect” at work in interpersonal relationships. So, if we draw conclusions on the basis of that which is immediately obvious, we are likely to miss something that is yet to trail along behind. Unless we evaluate things circumspectly our conclusions will, in the end, be more likely to be only partially correct.
Third, we must beware of the ever present temptation to play the “blame game”.
It seems that we humans are ever seeking to justify our actions by the misdeeds of others. Adam’s sin certainly was not his fault, right? He tried to blame God by saying, in essence, “It is your fault, God. You put the woman here.” Next, he made a feeble attempt to shift the blame to Eve by saying to God (in what must have been a whiny tone of voice), “She gave the fruit to me.” In the end, his own sin could not be denied. For, his final three words were: “I ate it.” (See: Genesis 3:12)
It is never right to do wrong. Adam was responsible and accountable for his own actions. Playing the “blame game” did not work for him. It will not work for us, either. Think about it. When we hear others seeking to justify their misdeeds on the basis of what someone did or did not do, is this not Adam’s folly being replayed? If we draw conclusions about what we hear when the “blame game” is being played, are we not participants in that nonsensical effort to justify misdeeds on the basis of the actions of others? If we do, then the rest of the story may well be quite foreboding for us as well. In my estimation we need to spend a lot less time trying to remove motes and a lot more time removing beams. We really must stop trying to justify ourselves. We need to humbly admit that we are all sinners, clinging desperately to the cross for salvation.
What is the rest of the story?
Perhaps we should consider the attitude of Jesus, when He was taken to Golgotha to be crucified. Actually, Hebrews 12:3 says that we should consider Him who endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that we might not grow weary and lose heart. Even at the place of the Skull, with the murderous mob clamoring about Him, preparing to crucify Him with criminals, His words revealed the love in His heart. He said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
The rest of the story seems to be: We all need to put on a heart of compassion towards one another.
We need to learn how to bear with one another and be willing to forgive one another, just as we’ve been forgiven by the Lord. We have all made mistakes, and if the Lord wills that time continue, we will continue to make mistakes. Our efforts should not be directed at tearing one another down, but building one another up in the Lord.
The devil shouts a raucous, raspy victory cheer, when followers of Jesus bite and devour one another. He knows that the army of the Lord is not able to go to war with him, when we are consuming one another.
Yes, even if the misdeeds of others are even worse that we imagined, might not the cause of Christ be profited if we lovingly said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” The rest of the story is yet to be written. How will we finish it?
© Bill Williams
September 7, 2006