Ed and Yvonne Tolkkinen | TheVoice of Zion February 2022 - Home and Family Article --
In our time, we see division and strife in many forms: turmoil, demonstrations, denial of the scientific community’s findings. These have a common thread, mistrust. Through various media platforms, people can find like-minded peers – those who share their experiences and beliefs and who validate their thoughts. We also use such platforms to validate our own opinions and perceptions. This may bring an understanding that only our own beliefs are valid. We fail to see that a different view may be legitimate. This leads to a lack of empathy, a lack of respect for fellow humans and, ultimately, polarization.
Believers are not immune to mistrust. We might mistrust those who make actions we don’t agree with, we question their motives. We become angry at opposing viewpoints. However, is this the correct attitude for a believer?
Of course we have freedom to differ and to express our own views. Still, believers have a responsibility to use words thoughtfully, to be moderate, and to place our position in the secure light of God’s Word. How far do we go in asserting our rights as citizens, in challenging mandates and restrictions? Even in these matters it seems we should turn to God’s Word. We are encouraged to be subject to those whom God has placed in positions of authority (Rom. 13:1,2). In addition, let us listen to God’s spoken Word, the voice of the congregation.
We have seen how the pandemic has affected believers’ relationships. Some are vocal in expressing support for the medical establishment, while others are vocal in expressing disagreement with it. Sometimes this alienates those who hold a differing viewpoint, giving the enemy of souls a foothold. There have been cases where offence has been caused and matters have festered.
Most of us are not scientists and have not studied matters from a scientific point of view. Therefore we make our decisions based on the wisdom God sees fit to share through those He places in various positions and through other trustworthy sources. We understand that no human institution is infallible; scientific institutions are made up of people too. Nonetheless it is God who allows understanding in medical science, though we acknowledge that there are still mysteries. God will lead us even in questions we don’t understand, according to His will.
In times when we feel polarization, or in instances where love has been broken, let us remember to treat others as we wish to be treated. God can help us restore mutual trust and heal wounds that polarization caused. We can mend broken love with the power found in the gospel of forgiveness of sins. We can pray for acceptance of what is and what comes. This life and these matters will only last a fleeting moment in the face of eternity. God promises to care for us.
Do We Speak Truth About Our Neighbor?
Mike and Brenda Kumpula | The Voice of Zion February 2022 - Home and Family Article --
What is gossip? Gossip means speaking about a topic using words or details that are not confirmed to be true. We typically associate gossip with being negative or using words that could cause harm. Gossip may be a collection of partial truths; human nature wants to “spread the news” even if it is not confirmed.
Most of us have played the game of “telephone” where a phrase is whispered from one to another around a group. When the phrase is said aloud at the end, it is often different than the original phrase. The lesson here is how quickly a message can be mixed up. Passing unconfirmed hearsay can be dangerous and hurtful if the message contains negative material. On the other hand, words that edify are words that encourage, heal or uplift.
Being on the receiving end of words that edify feels much better than being the subject of gossip. We should remember this in our own speech. “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt. 7:12). The greatest work of the tongue and the greatest words that edify we can ever use is preaching the forgiveness of sins.
How can we tell the difference between gossip and voicing concern?
It is not always easy to tell the intentions of another’s words. We have noticed that gossip can be disguised under the cloak of voicing concern for another. Often, the best way to differentiate between the two is by looking at the approach. A person who goes to the source for information shows true concern and caring. It might be appropriate to ask whether the speaker has attempted to reach the person being discussed. If the subject of discussion has not been asked, then what is being shared may be considered gossip.
We have been instructed to be our brother’s keeper, so we need to care about our neighbors and friends. Yet, a line is crossed when we go from voicing concern to spreading harmful gossip. We can even remember what God’s Word says about the fruits of His spirit and use them as a guide: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22,23).
Do believers gossip?
All humankind is faulty, and believers are no exception. While visiting with our many friends, it could be easy to make assumptions, spread things we may not know for fact but have heard through a secondary source. Certainly, we have all been guilty of this at some point in our lives, either by gossiping ourselves or by listening to gossip without confirming whether the information is accurate.
Sometimes – whether busy or idle – it can be that we are tempted to focus on things in others’ lives. We know that all of us fall into this – we all are curious about others’ joys and trials and faults, and as said in Romans 3:10, “There is none who is righteous, no not one.”
When through self-reflection we become aware that we have spoken uncharitably about our neighbor, or that we have perhaps even knowingly passed on harmful information that is not our business, we can correct matters by speaking with the one harmed and caring for the matter with the gospel. We can also visit with the source of the information and tell them we have taken our part out of it and cared for matters.
How can we steer a conversation away from gossip and slanderous talk?
A very direct way to end gossip is to verify information that is being passed along. Simply, we can ask for verification. Also, it is okay to question whether the one speaking knows for a fact that what they are saying is true. Bluntness is sometimes a correct way to deal with a situation that is potentially harmful. We can even ask the person why they are telling us this. If they review their motives, it may help them choose more carefully what they repeat.
In Scripture we are instructed, “Speak not evil one of another” (James 4:11). We can all support one another in avoiding words that wound and instead speaking of others with words that build and heal.
What Is True?
Name withheld | The Voice of Zion February 2022 - Home and Family Article --
A dictionary states that truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality. We understand and believe that God’s Word is true; it is the same yesterday, today and forever. We know this by faith, which is a way of knowing that transcends other ways of knowing, such as empirical truth.
Today we have access to hundreds of information sources at any time. There are plenty of options to choose from. Social media, podcasts and traditional news sources all to some degree reflect their own ideologies and biases. News is freely mixed with opinion and entertainment, including comedy and satire. This makes it difficult to navigate.
By many avenues the devil seeks to spread rumor, discord and unrest. We can sense this on a national and local, even personal, level. We wonder what sources we can trust to be factual regardless of bias. Believers can also become mistrusting and unloving towards our neighbor and societal authority. Is this temptation close to you? Or maybe a loved one acts out openly against authority, speaks poorly of a neighbor or even of another believer. This causes offence.
How can we believers navigate in our fractured time?
We travel through a strange and foreign time towards our heavenly home. There are many forces vying for power. Information whether evidence-based or rumor, can beget power, influence or money. Do we also feel pressure to know more and more?
Among the fruits of the Holy Spirit is temperance. Are we able to adequately temper our appetite for information, and our reaction to the influx of information so that we can be a light in this dark world? Are our reactions helpful to our neighbors and fellow believers or have we attempted instead to gain the upper hand with superior insight and understanding? We see in God’s Word how this desire to know – to gain elevated wisdom – was present with the first human pair. It even led to their fall into sin.
In the past two years, we have heard strong words like “revolt” and “revolution” in discussions with others. This has been very troubling. It has not brought us comfort and has made us withdraw from certain relationships. Does the inclination to resist stem from a lack of trust in God’s providence?
In all these let us recall who is the Creator of this world, who has allowed these times to come to pass, and who is the source of comfort and strength even in dark times. God lights our path and the gospel of forgiveness of sins can remove obstacles our mind places in front of us and restore trust in God and in governance He ordains.
How do we stay in the middle of the road and not get wrapped up in extreme viewpoints?
We are dwellers of the countries where we live whether we are citizens there or elsewhere. Jesus commands that we “love our neighbor.” Our greatest desire for our neighbors is that they would seek the kingdom of God. Likewise, we desire that all our conversation with other believers would edify and strengthen faith.
As responsible citizens we follow what is occurring in society. However, as believers our reactions should be tempered. Are we quick to post or repost something we see on social media, or do we wait to see if what has been published is true? Sending His disciples to preach of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus instructs, “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).
As discussions take place, we wonder whether similar discussions occurred a hundred years ago with the First World War and another pandemic in recent memory. News certainly wouldn’t have traveled as quickly throughout the world but when a believer received the news how did they process it? They too had to stay moderate and trust that God had a plan and would show a way forward.
Though our flesh may be attracted to join in extreme theories or opinions we hear, may we instead gravitate toward those things that bring God’s peace.
How do we not become fearful or create fear in others?
We need to trust in the true promises of God. Likewise, we can speak of these to those around us, especially our young ones and children: how God is good and all-knowing (Ps. 78). Even the events in the world today are allowed by His will. God will care for His own and answer our questions in His time.
The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:8,9).
Am I Truthful?
Name withheld | The Voice of Zion February 2022 - Home and Family Article --
What does truth mean to you? To help conceptualize this, we can ask, “Am I a truthful person?” We have been instructed since childhood to be truthful, to confess our faith openly, to not tell lies. It seems so straightforward; yet to be truthful includes not to be misleading, deceiving or to bluff one’s way through a situation or tell a fib. Has it ever been tempting to not be truthful to someone? To a friend, co-worker, classmate or a customer? Many of us have been in this circumstance at some time. Why is it that sometimes it feels that one hasn’t the strength to be completely truthful?
It can be especially difficult to be truthful or openly honest to a believing friend that has openly stated a difference of opinion to yours. You likely don’t want to offend them or possibly lose a friendship. Yet when you have strength to say what’s on your mind and leave nothing concealed, then you can experience personal freedom. Giving the impression you agree with someone even when you do not can leave you with a feeling of dishonesty. As Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Speak every man truth with his neighbor” (4:25).
These last two years have been a time of upheaval in a world dealing with a health pandemic. It has been a time that we have never experienced before. We have been inundated with information, advice and opinions from friends, family, health care providers, government and other sources. At times, it feels overwhelming listening to so many differing opinions and viewpoints.
At the beginning of the pandemic, some customers and family members messaged and warned to be careful of, for example, the government. Some messages seemed akin to seeing hidden agendas. These thoughts seemed to consume the people that shared them with us.
To our customers that were troubled, we offered encouragement not to be fearful. We told them we personally believe that even this pandemic is in God’s plan; we only need to live one day at a time.
We visited openly within our family about the worrisome theories others discussed, and we advised them to avoid reading too much online about the theories. We do not need to fear and lend our minds to foreign ideas. Time would be better spent reading The Voice of Zion and other Christian publications.
We recall the words from Proverbs, where we are reminded, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (3:5). This helped us put some ideas we heard into perspective. It is important that those ideas would not take away our everyday joy of believing or become obstacles to faith.
In discussing divisive topics, we can quickly feel frustration or even anger; thankfully we can put away offenses beneath the gospel even in these matters.
As the pandemic progressed, we experienced numerous restrictions – these were not enjoyable. Yet we need to be respectful and obedient to the laws. We have noticed that even among believers some encourage others to resist restrictions and question the rules put in place. However, the Bible encourages us to be moderate in all things, and to be obedient to the laws of the land, unless they would be contrary to our faith. The writer to the Hebrews says, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves” (13:17).
When disagreement over following the law happens, a wedge may be driven between believers. Freedom to speak openly and truthfully is hindered. Even little comments or a text message can begin to break the love between believing friends. For us, it has been hard to have a meaningful conversation with a friend when one resists the rules and the other wishes to comply. It has been difficult to find strength to visit about this lack of freedom, and we feel the devil has done its work.
We are thankful that God has continued to guide our personal pathways in faith. May He give us all strength to be open and truthful and respectful to one another. May He also grant us patience toward those who struggle in mistrust.
We pray that God would allow us to look past this moment’s hardships and again see the beauty of unity and one-minded love in God’s kingdom.
Questions for Discussion
What are the fruits of the spirit (Gal. 5:22–26)? How do they guide us when we consider information and truth?
How do we distinguish the truth of God’s Word and the truth found through empirical methods?
In the Bible, the serpent asked Eve “Who told you so?” What causes mistrust of authority in our lives? When if ever is this mistrust warranted?
Read Psalm 78 in its entirety. What central points could be extracted from this psalm to support our lives as consumers of information? Read, for example, verses 7–8, 20, 68–72.
What attracts people, even believers, to spread theories or claims that seem to have no evidence?
How can we speak of events of our time in a way that sows comfort and peace among the people close around us?