Saturday, January 30, 2010


It seems to me it is sometimes difficult for us to discern the difference between a person's words and actions [or behavior] and that person's motive or character. It is legitimate for us to discuss and evaluate the first but the second is beyond our purview. In fact, 1 Corinthians 4:5 forbids us attempting to do so.

We can assess a person's action/behavior as being right or wrong, good or bad, correct or incorrect, helpful or harmful or even sinful or not sinful. [Depending on our understanding of the biblical standard.] When we do believe their action violates a biblical standard [by our understanding] or a legal, socially accepted or an ethical one, we can, in a free society, take them to task for doing so. This is even/especially true of political leaders. It extends, in fact, to leaders of every kind including those of the Church in my opinion.

A person's words may sound arrogant and full of pride as Wade wrote recently about our President on his blog and it is legitimate to question such words which Wade did. I've heard many of these kinds of words of late from not only our President but the political leaders of both parties unfortunately. That kind of speaking or behavior gives me pause in any leader whether it's one locally, nationally, Church or otherwise.

But any assessment of the heart is God's only. This is where we can go astray if we're not careful. It may be this refusal to question a person's heart/motive is what separates a genuine truth seeker and one who wishes to build relationships from those who seek to tear down relationships over differences. This is what makes a great blog such as Wade's, his mother's and many others I read.

In fact, in my own journey I've observed that when I do the first I am loving people and speaking the truth as I see it about behavior. But when I do the second I'm loving behavior and speaking an untruth about people. [Since I can't know.] I know which of these Jesus produces in me. So that leaves the other as flesh.

Then there is the question of how we can know we're doing only the first, assessing words/actions and not the second, assessing heart/motives. [I'm assuming the leadership of the Spirit and the knowledge of the Word here.] I think there is often a simple one word clue...anger. Now you get the image at the top.

Anger is frequently an emotion that can indicate a person has goals for another person that are being blocked. Much as at a four-way stop sign and the person is cheated out of their turn to cross and they get angry at the offending driver. If I have a goal for another and I get angry when they fail to produce what I desire, the issue that is at play is not so much the behavior of the other as it is my desire to control...thus anger is felt.

Anger signals in me that the problem is mine at the moment. This may be the reason the scripture reminds us to be wary of an angry person because we can be sure they are twisted inside in some way.

You realize I'm sure that anger is not evil in and of itself, but, as shown, it could be just a negative emotion that might be signaling that one's thinking and motives are screwed up. If I'm wise I'll learn from my own anger. That's certainly worth my looking into when I'm angry in a discussion or commenting on a blog. It sure makes for a better comment section on blogs I assure you.

[I'm not discounting the reality of righteous anger, just our actually having it nearly as often as we think.]

Spurgeon said this..."Men can with a few hasty words set loose a torrent of anger and uncharitableness, and cause the sweeping away of much good service and sweet fellowship, but who shall rule, restrain, or call back the raging flood.'

'Anger does a man more hurt than that which made him angry. It opens his mouth and shuts his eyes and fires his heart and drowns his sense and makes his wisdom folly."

The Prince of Preachers may have said it best.

Just a thought.

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


Timely words, my friend. I must confess, I scratch my head sometimes when I read the replies to Wade's blog.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I scratch my head also..often..when reading many several comment sections these days.

Good to hear from you friend.

Paul Burleson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aussie John said...


Maybe that's why we've lost so much hair? :)

When I read some of those "many several comment sections" you mention, I wish I could help some of the contributers to avoid some of the mistakes you and I made when we thought we had all the answers (don't tell me I was the only one).

Maybe younger people, after seminary, need to simply take on secular work of some kind and function as a member of a congregation until the congregation recognizes that he has leadership gifting and potential and allowing him/her to prove themselves over a period of time.

That may help to prevent the prevalent and obvious attitude, in many, that a few years in seminary, and a head full of information gives the ability and privilege of leadership.

Maybe I'm just and old guy who's lost the plot?

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

You said..."Maybe I'm just and old guy who's lost the plot?"

You may be a bit older, as am I, but I assure you if I know anything about reality, you're one of only a few I read today who has an inkling what the plot is really all about.

Ramesh said...


I have said my share of words in anger, that I later regretted.

Bob Cleveland said...

We need to keep in mind that these folks we dice with on the internet, mostly are creations of our own mind. What we've read about them, and our impression from what they've said. We take those evidences and then build a person in our minds based on that.

The guys I know personally, when I read what they write, I read it against what I know about them from knowing them, and that's a whole different filter.

And then I also know that most of the folks I know personally .. thinking of folks in our church here .. don't know all that much about what they believe .. so I tend to think that when someone says something vitriolic on a comment or in a post, it's probably a little bit of insecurity-based defensiveness speaking, and I discount the tone of that stuff.

And it's a lot easier for me to be pompous when I feign compassion, too.


Aussie John said...


I want to start a church :):), with Paul and Bob as the elders.

Rex Ray said...

I think you hit the nail on the head (AGAIN) when you said:

“I tend to think that when someone says something vitriolic on a comment or in a post, it's probably a little bit of insecurity-based defensiveness speaking.”

On Paul’s blog is recorded; “I will most likely always struggle with "insecurity and pride" every time you take me "to task"

Paul’s topic was the difference between:
1. A person’s words and actions.
2. A person’s motive or character.

Paul also said:
“When we do believe their action violates a biblical standard or a legal, socially accepted of an ethical one, we can, in a free society, take them to task for doing so.”

I wrote an email in response to the sermon: “No one puts new wine into old wine skins.”

I asked if the congregation could be an old wine skin, and the preaching new wine due to the drop in attendance both of the old and the young.

I gave an example of ‘new wine’ with the story of the birth of Jesus being changed in a sermon to a graphic vivid picture of child birth with screams, blood, mucus, misshapen head caused by birth cannel and so on. One mother said she was glad her child wasn’t listening.

I criticized the church newsletter which said churches were judged on how many “butts” were present.

I wrote: “The old wine of “Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart ever world…” will never be heard by our children because of ‘new wine’…a new song.”

I criticized the congregation standing continually till 11:20 through songs, prayer in the middle, and a short sermon by song performer.

I ended by saying, “I hope you take this as: “Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy.”

The reply to my email in short was:
“I am not responding because I am not sure how to respond.
You think you know my heart and motives better than I do.
You are right and everyone else is wrong in relation to your core convictions.
The problem is that you and I are not friends. Friendship is based on mutual trust, mutual respect, and love. I respect a great deal about you but I do not trust you. You neither respect nor trust me. I am not sure about the love part.
So until I figure all of this out, I choose not to respond.”

The question is how do the emails compare to Paul’s “1” and ‘2”?

Bob Cleveland said...


The emails: Evasive. That's probably a lot easier than dealing with issues. Particularly when you don't want to deal with issues.

That Golden Rule thing would forbid a lot of the vitriol and careless speech out there, unless there are many more masochistic Baptists than I'd have thought.

Rex Ray said...

Good reply. It’s like a person knows he can win wrestling with a hog, but who wants to get muddy?

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Paul, I thought you post was timely.I think I will put Spurgeon's comment up where I can ponder it on a daily basis.

Would you expound upon the group that you mentioned over at Wade's blog...the one that you and Mary are facilitating. Do you have a basic format or reading list that has been helpful in the creation of such a group.

I thought this quote was spot on.

"I've found that Christians sometimes lack pratical ways of understanding our fallen human makeup that enables us to examine our motives, why they are what they are, and our on-going behavior patterns in relationships often resulting even from our families of origin or difficult experiences of pain. As I said, many people from many disciplines aided us here."

Paul Burleson said...


There is not much to expound upon actually. It IS a.. "not for the faint of heart".. group of people who are tired of trying to measure up or tired of failing relationally and are willing to honestly assess their own failures to the group.

This is done after building a "safe" atmosphere by all agreeing to a few guidelines like 1) no shaming or condemning another who shares. 2)No trying to correct or fix another who shares unless it is requested. 3)No speaking for another [if a spouse is present for example) or trying to explain another. 4) No speaking of what is talked about in the group outside the group.

The agenda is set ONLY after gathering for the first meeting and Mary and I and others will lead a time of basic instruction as we understand the scriptures on any given subject at any proper time that presents itself along the way.

It's not for a frustrated preacher want-to-be who talks all the time. Nor for a closet Messiah who has all the answers for those smart enough to listen to him/her. Nor for a helper who only feels good about themselves if it's obvious he/she has helped correct someone who misses the mark in his/her opinion.

But it IS for anyone who's wounded, broken, hurting or just plain honest about struggles in life and wants to experience Jesus in ALL of life and are ready to get some handles on things that make sense biblically as well as a healthy dose of good old fashion common sense.

In other's what the gathered Church ought to be every Lord's day IMHO.

Rodney Sprayberry said...


I think I have written before that I discovered the value of such a group during my clinical pastoral education. I have longed to find such a concept practiced in the "gathered church."

Maybe one day....

You may be aware of this concept. If not, it will be beneficial for you within this group. It is called parallel process. I used to think it was hooey! That is until I experienced it. Here is a link that provides a little more info.


Rex Ray said...

Just read your link of the counselor. You once said your third choice of an occupation would be counseling.

With your training, how would you counsel the two writers of the emails in light of Paul’s post of OK for discussing what a person says or does, but not OK to judge their motive or character?

You know, the emails I mentioned and the ones Bob chose not to dell on.

Bob Cleveland said...

One other thought comes into play when it comes to "discussing" all this with other folks on blogs:

"Anybody knows a bobcat can whip a skunk, but it's usually not worth the stink".


But I absolutely LOVE the word verification: "snershts". I'm gonna do something with THAT!