There are few things that are more damaging to the unity of body of Christ than suspicion. Only once is the word suspicion used in the New Testament; but, it is connected with another serious word - "Evil" (1Tim 6:4 NKJV). "Evil suspicions" is how it is described. This word evil that Paul uses has another meaning to it - Hurtful. Suspicion is evil because it is hurtful to the process of unity in the body of Christ. In Jesus' High Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed for His Church to be one in the same kind of way that He and the Father were one (Jn 17:11). Suspicion is a tactic of Satan that is used to undo what Christ has prayed for. It is a crafty method to keep you out of fellowship with your brother or sister.
As a pastor, here are a few ways in which I have witnessed how suspicion causes believers to become disconnected with the church. Statements like these:
"I don't feel connected here. I don't think they like me."
More than once, I've had someone say to me, "I don't feel connected to the church." Usually, if they have the courage to tell you that they do not feel connected, it is likely that these individuals have already started considering going to another church. "Maybe, I just don't fit in here" is what they often say. It has been my observation that when individuals claim to not feel connected, it is usually because they aren't. Sometimes people blame their lack of connectivity on the church, when in reality, they have not made themselves available to the church. It's not that we do not like you; it's that you have not given us the opportunity to get to know you. I know that in some churches there are cliques; but, if you are looking for relationship and connectivity, I am convinced that you can find it. Since being in the Church, I have always been able to find other believers who were friendly and caring. I have also found that there are many other believers who desire connectivity. If you are one who does not feel connected, don't be suspicious that the rest of the church does not like you. Get connected. Make yourself available for times of fellowship. Be the one who initiates conversation. Stop waiting on others.
"I wonder what they think of me?"
At the heart of this question is a lack of relationship. We have no problem identifying what those closest to us think about us. It is only those with whom we are less familiar that these kinds of questions arise. Since we are not close enough to certain individuals to know what they think of us, we often look for signs in their expressions or behavior to get a reading of where we stand in their eyes. Sometimes we look for certain facial
expressions as a way of feeling people out, but that can be tricky. What if they are expressionless? I have been told many times that I am a person who is hard to read. Will we go on wringing our hands because we cannot read what people think of us? Not only that, but it takes knowing an individual to understand their expressions. I've been accused of looking angry during a sermon, yet, what I'm feeling inside is something altogether different. Serious? Yes! Passionate? Yes! Concerned? Yes! But not angry. At the same time, if I took the expressions of some in the pew too seriously, I would be offended on a regular basis. What's interesting is that some of those who gave me what I perceived to be sour looks during my preaching have told me afterwards how much the sermon meant to them. Facial expressions cannot be an accurate way to judge how someone feels about you. It really comes down to getting to know that individual. Knowing takes time. It takes being intentional.
"They don't have confidence in me."
It can often be a hurtful thing to feel like someone does not have confidence in you. We often perceive this as an attack on our spirituality. However, unless someone has outright told us that they do not respect us, we ought not to assume that they don't. Assumption and suspicion are one and the same. Assumption and suspicion of this sort leads to resentment. Resentment causes strain in relationships. In the mean time, be active, be supportive, be mature, and most of all, be spiritual. If we will commit to do these things, we will gain the respect and confidence of others. Be on guard though! Whether you realize it or not, any off colored remark or attitude, can mar your testimony.
"There's something about that person that's just not right. I don't know what it is, but................."
Have you ever said something like that or heard someone else talk that way? Growing up in conservative churches, I quickly learned to be suspicious of everyone. It was very common for individuals in our church to make judgments about people that we did not even know. If they dressed different, they were immediately deemed unfit for the kingdom. If they used different spiritual lingo than what we were familiar with, they were deemed "charismatic." In those days, to be called "Charismatic," was like being called a Publican. It meant that you were a fake Pentecostal. What’s sad is that many of those who we deemed "unfit," often showed more of the character of Christ than we did. Unless we see clear and evident acts of un-Christ like characteristics, we have no reason to assume the worst about an individual. If they are doing things of an ungodly sort, then it's not suspicion, but fact. But don't get your facts from someone else. We should never allow second hand information about someone tarnish our view of them. Give everyone a fair opportunity to prove themselves. It is the facts that we should be concerned with; however, even if someone within the church is committing ungodly acts, we should seek restoration over condemnation.
Here are a few ways to kill suspicion and promote unity:
1. Denounce the "Victim" and "Martyr" mentality. Everyone is not out to get you. Do not feed on thoughts that tell you otherwise."Whatever things [that] are lovely, whatever things [that] are of good report, think on these things" (Phil 4:8). If you are feeling like someone has a problem with you, meet with them and work it out for the sake of the unity of the Body.
2. Denounce pride. Pride is a sneaky thing. We are rarely aware of its influence. Some people are bothered when they are not recognized or regularly affirmed. This can lead an individual to be suspicious about his or her standing within the church. Affirmation can be a wonderful thing. It helps to build confidence in those who are lacking it. However, the constant need for affirmation can be a sign that we really have a pride issue. Self affirmation can become a bottomless pit that can never be filled. If we are going to seek affirmation, let's seek it from the Person who really matters - God. If you are not being affirmed, don't think of it as a personal attack. Think of it as God's way of keeping you humble. "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).
3. Denounce Spiritual Elitism. There is nothing more nauseating than a spiritually arrogant person; so resist the urge to think of yourself as the most spiritual or most anointed. Those who do this are called elitist. They have all the answers and are often too eager to give them. They have been used of God more than anyone else. They have prayed and fasted more than anyone else. Everything that they have ever done is bigger and better than what anyone else has done. Remember, if you are truly “super spiritual,” or "super anointed," you will not have to tell anyone. People will pick up on it. Jesus said in John 10:25, "The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me." They will bear witness of you too! And if they do, stay humble, lest you find yourself being rejected by God.
4. Denounce the instinct to judge. There are those who see themselves as possessing the "gift" of discernment. However, the New Testament assures us that the gift of discernment was for the purpose of discerning spirits (1Cor. 12:10) - not whether or not an individual is saved or genuine. Francis Frangipane penned these words concerning discernment: "There is a false discernment that is based on mistrust, suspicion, and fear. You can recognize false discernment by the coldness around it. The beginning of true discernment will not come until we crucify our instincts to judge." He went on to add, “Spiritual discernment is the grace to see into the unseen." Discernment is not the same thing as intuition: Intuition is based on an inner feeling. Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit that allows us to see in the Spirit what cannot be seen in the natural. The Holy Spirit deals with the facts, not feelings. If you constantly find yourself being suspicious of others, realize that it is not discernment that you're dealing with. It is more likely that you are being judgmental.
5. Denounce Spiritual Celibacy. In the old days, entire books were written about Christians and ministers having to walk alone with God. Aloneness with God was considered the height of spirituality. These books were written as if there were no one else who was willing to walk with you as you walked with God. If that is the case then what good is the church? The church is a community of believers who are walking in fellowship with God and each other. Aloneness with God is important, but it is a blatant disregard of Scripture to reject fellowship with others in the process. We walk alone with God so that we can properly walk together with men. Besides, most cannot use the excuse that they are too busy with God or for God. It’s more likely that we have not learned to appreciate the rest of the body of Christ. This can be a result of at least two things: A lack of understanding, or a lack of love. With all of the Bibles that we have in our possession, as well as the Spirit, we have no excuse for either.
Ephesians 4:3 exhorts us to "Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Colossians 3:14 exhorts us to "Put on love, which is the bond of perfection." As we seek to grow and move forward in ministry, we will find that the enemy will look for in-roads into the church. Let's take the advice of Peter: "Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary the devil walks about (as a lion) seeking whom he may devour" (1Pe 5:8). Don't get caught up in gossip or suspicion. For in doing so, we actually open the door for Satanic activity. The Church is God's House. Let's keep it that way.