Thursday, November 04, 2004

"So the Word of God Spread"

“So the Word of God spread” (Acts 6:7) I really need that assurance. I know I am not the only one who thinks about failure when I here complaint. Samuel Johnson wrote, “The usual fortune of complaint is to excite contempt rather than pity.” My own experience reveals that complaining, whether I’m giving or receiving, often ends with frustration. Even some of the Bible stories that we tell reveal the connection between complaint and relationship brakes. How many people died between Egypt and Canaan because they complained?

Why did this complaint from the Grecian widows result in good when so many complaints bring frustration at a minimum and sometimes downright evil? Here are a couple of my ideas about that:

First, it was the first complaint. I’m aware that there could have been some things that caused friction in the early days of the church that Luke doesn’t reveal, but this is the first time someone in the church grumbled about the way something was happening as he tells the story. Complaining doesn’t seem to have been a prominent part of the Christian’s linguistic experience in these early days, neither as a whole or individually. If you will be heard, you have to be sure you are not constantly making a grumbling sound. People who complain constantly are major turnoffs both to the subjects of their complaints and to any others who are in position to deal with the complaint. Like the boy who cried wolf, those who constantly complain often find their words falling on deaf ears.

Second, it was a legitimate complaint. The Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt thinking their best days were behind them. They were so wrong. They saw an approaching army, or faced other scary circumstances, and did not consider the salvation of the Lord. Actually, the best days were yet to come. God and Moses knew. The Israelites would not listen. They grumbled because they were not seeing what was real. Likewise, sometimes a complaint is couched in terms like “he always” or “she never” and it is dismissed immediately because those terms don’t reflect reality. The Grecians were right apparently. There was unbalanced attention given to the Hebraic widows. That’s what they grumbled about. Legitimate complaints, expressed in reasonable language, get deserved attention.

There are other things about the approach and about how the complaint was received that contributed to the positive result though the “grumbling” was negative. What do you see in the passage that you would include in an explanation for this super turn of events? What would you suggest to people, or what would you adopt for yourself, as part of a good conflict management style?

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