“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers,” James 4:11. This is an often misunderstood phrase and I can only tell you what I believe I understand…
Circumstances and relationships can be very grey. Not everything is clear here in middle arena. I don’t always know why this or that has happened. I can’t always explain my fears and disappointments or even why I feel some joy. And it is even less possible for me to determine the motives of others! Why they have said this or done that. We are continually relating and organizing. It would be preposterous to suppose that any one of us human beings could keep tabs on all the “whys” and “hows”. And as I have stated before, assumption can be the greatest enemy of truth.
Although it is important for each of us to at some point come to conclusions about our motives, it is not the most important thing. After all, I am relating to God while here on earth! Therefore, I can expect to run smack into my motives at any given time! But any attempts to discover my own motives or the motives of others amidst the grey, within the cloud of dust and whirlwind of adversity, would be futile. And would inevitably leave me with only guesses and assumptions. Not a good idea!
Now, place “speaking evil” in this context. Think about the possibility that you and I have probably at times drawn wrong conclusions when dust was flying, and talked about it! We have formed judgments in the whirlwind… .just like Jobs friends!
It is a lesson in friends and enemies. Are we a friend? Or are we an enemy? An enemy is, of course, not supremely concerned about our welfare. Therefore, they don’t mind mentioning our failures and sins and why we have probably gotten what we deserve. But a friend is always concerned about our welfare. And therefore, whether or not we have failed or sinned, is looking for our way out of the whirlwind. They sit in dust and ashes with us. Sharing our shame and pain and waiting with us, for an answer. Jobs friends did start here!
The love of a friend does something other than form judgments. Even if we are full of failures, even if we are humbled in our sins, even if we have been justly chastised… .our friend grabs hold of his or her largest garment and gently lays it across our shoulders and then pulls it around his or her own. Our friend does not chastise or condone. And they make no assumptions. We may be guilty. But we may also be innocent. Our friend slips under the covering with us and holds and prays and waits for an answer. Until the dust is settled and the whirlwind subsides. And the Lord shows up with an answer…. And a friend stays with us to help process the answer. To aid us in reconciling the offense. Even as though the offense was their own. They have come under the covering with us. This is a friend.
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses,” Proverbs 10:12. “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends,” Proverbs 17:9. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins,” 1 Peter 3:13.