Do you catch yourself talking about others? I do. We have to be so careful with what we say. I came across this recently while reading through the book of James. Here is what I learned
James 4:11 says “Do not speak against one another,” and James 5:9 tells us “Do not complain against one another.” These two verses are another way of saying do not slander or gossip. Yet, in every church there are those who slander and gossip – I know because I am occasionally numbered among them. It is easy to say “I don’t gossip!” Yet, how often do we speak against one another? Or complain against one another? We know that it won’t be with those who we are talking about, but it will be in the presence of friends and perhaps family.
The language James uses here calls us to hold our tongue before we even define our talk as gossip or slander. We can simply ask if we are talking against or complaining against others – if we are, we’ve crossed the line.
James also connects complaining with impatience in James 5:9. Verses 7-8 exhorts us to be patient until the coming of the Lord. Verses 10-11 also talk about the example of the prophets who endured suffering patiently. These verses provide the context for complaining. James is helping us to see that when we take our eyes off the Lord, we see the failure and weaknesses of our fellow believers and we begin to see these as injustices against ourselves. Instead we are to keep ourselves focused on the purpose of our salvation and the shortness of the time at hand. If we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, we will be less inclined to complain against one another, because our focus will not be on ourselves but on service to the Lord.
The other one another in James 5 is “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). There are lots of different reactions to this verse. I’ve heard it said that we shouldn’t be airing our “dirty laundry” to others – as if that is the same as confession. We’ve also heard that this means we should pray for healing. Both of these miss the point.
But what stands out to me about these one another’s here is that the concept of the church that James envisions. They are with each other enough to speak against one another and complain against one another, should they allow their flesh to control them. They are also together enough to be able to confess their sins to one another – which presumably would include confessing their complaining and speaking against one another.
They are also near enough to the Lord in their own lives to be able to rightly identify their need to confess to one another, and they know their weakness well enough to be able to value confession and accountability to others.
I find it easy to disconnect from others in the church. But we need one another for the sake of our walk with Christ. Of course the other challenge is to build up those around us rather than speaking against them. Oh, how much we need our hearts directed into the love of God (2 Thess 3:5)!