I wonder how it would change the way we treat other people if we really prayed through and then lived out Matthew 7:12 in all our relational endeavors? How much more like Christ would we be if we stopped to consider whether our words or actions treated others according to the Bible and according to the way we would want to be treated, which is essentially a summation of the Bible (Matthew 22:36-40).
I have recently developed a bit of a ministry rash to a statement that comes up in ministry conversations, and it doesn’t just happen in the context of being the pastor of a local church. I often hear people in ministry and other contexts saying that they feel or think a certain thing about a certain something, and “lots of other people have been saying or feeling the same thing too.”
To this I have to ask, who are all these other people that go unnamed and did they ask to be brought in as anonymous witnesses to strengthen the vocal person’s concerns? Also, how many is “a lot of people”? After all, if the person who has heard from a lot of people only knows five people, then two people might be “a lot of people.” In this case, “A lot of people” could be a very misleading statement – I’m inclined to think it often is.
I know I have invoked the “a lot of people” argument myself. I am culpable. I want to be clear that I am speaking to myself and all teachable people everywhere when it come to thinking about “a lot of people” and what the Spirit would have us do. Here are a few suggestions to consider before using “a lot of people” as anonymous witnesses:
- Suggestion 1 – If you are going to invoke “a lot of people” as a part of your reason for saying something, be prepared to tell how many people, “a lot of people” represents. Doesn’t that seem fair? Otherwise, the person you are talking to might think that the whole world is talking about them and your concern. Also, giving a definite representation of the concerned might help to show that there are not “a lot of people”, or maybe there are are, and then you can determine whether you really need to say what you were thinking of saying. Your argument might not be as strong as you think when you put it in context.
- Suggestion 2 – If you are going to call “a lot of people” as witnesses, be prepared to reveal who you mean by “a lot of people.” This also seems fair that the person you are speaking directly to knows who he or she may need to talk with to resolve the concerns of “a lot of people.” That would be biblical.
- Suggestion 3 – If you are going to out your support (those who agree with you) then you may want to to let them know that you will call them to bear witness when you go to the person you have a problem with or who might be able to do something about your concern.
- Suggestion 4 – If you are going to share a concern on behalf of “a lot of people”, you may want to consider how it would make you feel if someone came to you and told you that “a lot of people” were saying this, that, or the other. Honestly and sincerely, what I am calling for is a biblical effort to treat other people the way that we want to be treated, for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12). I know that if someone has a concern or doesn’t like something that I have done or am doing, what I would appreciate most is that they come straight to me and not leave me to wonder what is being said by “a lot of other people.”
As much as we can help it, we lovingly owe it to each other to speak clearly and precisely about what’s bothering us. The other side of this coin is that we have many people who are too easily bothered. We live in a thin-skinned, therapeutic and hyper-sensitive age. Maybe I’m too sensitive about “a lot of people”, but if we took the Bible seriously, Jesus would have us be very careful about leveraging anonymous and unnumbered witnesses to make our point to our brother and sister in Christ. There is more to being a Christian than being right or making a point, there’s treating others the way we would want to be treated.