Tim Keller and David Powlison have written a helpful piece on what to do when you have some bad news you can share about a fellow Christian or ministry. “Our thinking was that perhaps bloggers would want to adopt these and spread the word about them as a way, in Keller’s words, to ‘spiritually season Christian conversation in cyberspace.'”
The entire post is worth reading. Here’s the summary:
In summary, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, the principle is this. If you hear bad reports about other Christians you must either cover it with love or go to them personally before speaking of it to any others.
- The first thing to do is to simply suspend judgment. Don’t pass on bad reports.
- The second thing to do is “cover” it in love, reminding yourself that you don’t know all about the heart of the person who may have done evil—and you know your own frailty. Don’t allow bad reports to pass into your own heart.
- The final thing to do is go and speak to them personally.
What you should never do is rush to judgment, or withdraw from loving another, or pass on the negative report to others. This is challenge enough when you’re dealing with the local grapevine or slow-moving postal service. In a world of instant world-wide communication of information it’s an even bigger challenge, because you can do bigger damage more quickly. Whether the bad report offers true information, or partial information, or disinformation, or false information—it is even more important that you exercise great discretion, and that you take pains to maximize boots-on-the-ground interpersonal relationships.