NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Pastor Shan Gian who is the Fenway Site pastor at Symphony Church in Boston. Shan is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.).
Devotional Thought for This Morning
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Imagine that you and your roommate (or spouse or sibling, whatever makes sense for you) planned a dinner date at home tonight at 6pm. The plan was to cook a nice dinner together and catch up on life in this busy season. But 6pm comes along and your roommate isn’t home still. You text and call but don’t get a response. You give it some time, but it’s 6:45pm and not a word still.
In a situation like this, what happens in our minds is that we tell ourselves a story of what’s going on and the story we tell has a great effect on our emotions. If we assume that our roommate completely forgot about the dinner and went to hang out with other friends, anger bubbles up quickly in our hearts. We think that maybe he doesn’t care about our friendship, and we start to recount the record of wrongs that our dear roomie has committed against us. But if instead we think, “Maybe he got into a car accident” or “Maybe she got caught up at work and her phone died”, instead of anger, we may feel compassion towards our roommate.
Our brains are wired to fill in the gaps and make up stories about people and situations, and the kind of stories we make up can have significant and often devastating effects on our relationships with others. The hypothetical situation is likely not that hypothetical for the majority of us. When a friend, coworkers, family member or fellow church member says or does something bothers or upsets us, we so quickly default to stories about their lack of love or the abundance of sin in their lives. And beyond the people we are close with or we work with, think about our assumptions of the people who are distant or different from us. Especially in our divided and politically-charged world today, people assume the worst of the other. Depending on which side of the fence you are on, the people on the other side are either racist, homophobic, privilege conservatives or they’re Marxist, family-destroying, baby-killing liberals.
In Emotionally Healthy Relationships, Geri and Peter Scazzero say “Every time I make an assumption about someone without confirming it, I am at risk for believing a lie about this person. My assumption is just a breath away from misrepresenting reality because I have not checked out my assumption with the other person, it is very possible that I’m believing something untrue and effectively bearing false witness against my neighbor.” When we make assumptions about others, we’re breaking the 9th Commandment, bearing false witness against our neighbors, and that can have devastating effects on ourselves, on our communities and even on society. Bearing false witness against others builds up walls and barriers between us.
As followers of Jesus, we must seek to break down these walls and barriers; instead of making up stories in our heads about others, we must approach others with grace. Instead of assuming the worst of others and distancing ourselves, we can take the simple yet powerful step of approaching with love and grace and simply talk and seek to understand what’s going on in our neighbors’ lives.
Maybe there’s someone who comes to mind right now or maybe today God will bring someone into your life of whom you have told or will tell yourself a negative story. To that person, seek to approach them with grace and love.
Prayer: Jesus, give me a love for my neighbor that comes from you. I confess it is easy for me to love based on when it’s convenient for me. Help me to break down the walls in my own mind and heart even and to approach others with your love and grace. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 10
Lunch Bible Study
Read Ephesians 4:29-32: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Questions to Consider
- What is the reason for being kind and gracious to others?
- What does it mean to “grieve the Holy Spirit”?
- If you were judged just by the words that you speak to others, would you be reflecting the forgiveness and love of Jesus to others? Or are you grieving the Holy Spirit?
- The reason for kindness towards others is the kindness and forgiveness of Jesus. Paul exhorts us to forgive with the knowledge and recognition of how Jesus has forgiven us of our sins. When we remember the forgiveness, love and kindness of Jesus for us, it changes how we treat and interact with others.
- Broadly speaking, it is our sin that grieves the Holy Spirit, but in this passage, it seems that Paul has our sin towards one another particularly in mind. “Corrupting talk” would be speaking words of complaint or gossip or saying derogatory or cutting remarks, and this kind of “talk” would be in the context of a relationship. It grieves the Holy Spirit when we break community by speaking these types of words to others. Also, the sins listed in verse 31 (bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice), these are not sins that only affect the person who commits them; they are by natural sins that affect and infect relationships and community.
- Personal response
As we seek to love and bless those around us, inside and outside the church community, we need to continually remember the love of Jesus for us. Take some time tonight to reflect on Jesus’ forgiveness and kindness toward you and pray that His love will be reflected to those around you.