I don’t know about you, but I get chills every time I see a large transportation vehicle in a position other than it was intended to assume. For example, the pictures of the Costa Concordia on its side off the coast of Italy is a disturbing picture for me. And it’s a sad story.
When the tragedy was first reported, all fingers pointed to the ship’s captain. Initial reports suggested that the captain had “stumbled into” a lifeboat, while most passengers and crew were still on board. More recent reports have suggested that the captain may have stayed on the ship longer than initially thought.
The truth appears to be unclear. The captain is facing charges, since it’s an international crime for a ship’s captain to abandon his vessel.
It may be a while before we know the final outcome of this sad story, but one lesson we can take away from it at this early stage is this: don’t jump to conclusions.
Particularly in this age of overwhelming quantities of information, it is altogether too easy to draw a conclusion about a person or situation before all the facts have been unveiled.
Of course, this doesn’t just happen with news stories, or even community events. Sometimes, it happens right in the church. One of the greatest challenges to the growth and health of the Christian church is that very human temptation faced by each of us: gossip. I’ve seen guests decide against a return visit to a congregation because, before worship, they clearly heard gossip, and even slanderous talk (!), coming from congregants.
It’s a great habit and discipline to learn how to speak well of others, and to have a positive attitude. Part of the blessing of that is the whole ‘honey attracts better than vinegar’ concept, but more importantly, speaking well of others fulfills an aspect of God’s will for his people: “Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honour. Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble. Mockers are proud and haughty; they act with boundless arrogance” (Proverbs 21.21-24, NLT).
I’ll be interested to see how the captain of the Costa Concordia comes out of this tragedy, but more importantly, I will love to watch God’s people speaking well of others. Try it, and see what happens in your church!