Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a sweet little church in Carmel, California, and I want to share a teaching from the Reverend, Dr. Rick Duncan. For his full sermon, you can download it HERE. I highly recommend it.
How taking up a reproach against others
steals your peace and joy.
We can look at Psalm 15 to show us how to live more in God's presence and thus have joyful and peaceful lives. This passage describes "the citizen of Zion," that is one who dwells in the presence of God. For Christians, this applies to us, though we know that God dwells in our hearts now and we are the tabernacle (1 Cor. 3:16). He does not dwell in a building or tabernacle or tent anymore. But what does the person who has God dwelling within their heart look like? Let's take a look.
O Lord, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.
He does not slander with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
But who honors those who fear the Lord;
He swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He does not put out his money at interest,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things will never be shaken. (NASB)
This Psalm refers to the time when the Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years, when God resided with them in the tent or tabernacle. The tabernacle was the place that housed the Ark of the Covenant and the Ten Commandments, where God's presence dwelled among the people. The Psalmist is really asking, "Who may be in your presence, O God?" It is those who walk with integrity, who do righteous things, and speak truth (the truth of who God is) in his heart. It is those who don't slander others, who don't inflict harm or evil against their neighbors, or take up a reproach against his friend. You can see what the other verses say, but I want to focus squarely on the last part of verse 3, "Nor takes up a reproach against his friend." Not many people really know what "taking up a reproach" means today, so I will use the Reverend's explanation and show how it is relevant today, especially with what is going on in the news, in social media, and with the angry mobs and marches. This is very practical in helping resolve conflicts, as well.
Basically, taking up a reproach means this -- responding with strong emotions toward someone who did something to someone else as though it were done to you. In other words, becoming angry and bitter towards a person even though they didn't sin against you or offend you directly, thereby damaging the relationship you have with that person.
Here's an example.
Let's say someone hurt your child's feelings. They come and tell you all about it and you find yourself getting really angry and upset at the offending party. As parents, we tend to want to get involved right away and fix it, don't we? But what usually happens? The next day, the kids work it out and they're on their way, all the while we are still seething with anger toward that other child (or adult)! Or what about when your spouse or a friend comes to you complaining about something their boss or co-worker did or said. We get upset and angry toward that person, but the next day, it was all worked out; it's just that they forgot to tell us about it! We spend a lot of energy and time harboring bad thoughts and feelings and judgment toward that person for nothing. They are at peace among themselves, but we are not.
This is what that verse is saying -- don't hold another person in contempt or be critical or judgmental of someone who did nothing to you directly. Why? Because there is no way toward restoration or forgiveness with someone who did nothing to you directly - it's just wasted negative energy that causes a lack of joy and peace!
We do it all the time, don't we? Especially against those we see on T.V. or on social media, who do and say things that seem crazy or mean - we take up a reproach, an offense against them. We judge them even though they didn't do anything to us directly. We get bitter and angry and upset; our hearts can't be comforted or the offense assuaged because we don't even know these people and they don't know us! Forgiveness or restoration isn't possible to make things right between us.
This Psalm is telling us that if we want to live joyful and peaceful lives, we have to respond in a different way. When someone does something or says something that is offensive but is not about us directly, such as something done to those we care about or support, we have to trust that God loves them, too. He is in the situation. He knows the intent and the details. We rarely have all the facts anyway to make a proper judgment, but God does, so we should leave it up to Him to restore things. And He promises that He will work it out or judge that person in the way that seems best to Him. Romans 8:28 says,
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
And Galatians 6:7,
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."
What can we do?
We can choose instead to pray...
...for the situation to be calmed down;
...for restoration between the parties;
...for protection and strength for the one being attacked;
...for mutual respect and consideration;
...for God to forgive and be merciful toward the offender;
...to work in the hearts and minds of all involved about what is true;
...to restore the way of peace and unity.
Instead of allowing our emotions to take us to a place of reproach, contempt, and judgment, we can instead teach our kids how to work things out with the other person, and we can counsel our spouse or friend to seek peace with the party that offended them. Then we can follow up later about what happened and move on. Chances are all is forgiven and you can rest knowing that you were a peacemaker. Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matt. 5:9). This is one way to live joyful and peaceful lives.
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