This weekend I listened to a podcast sermon by Haddon Robinson in which he told a story about Robertson McQuilkin, former president of Columbia International University. He put up a plaque in his living room that said, “The Absent Are Safe Here.” That meant that neither he nor his wife would speak unkindly about those not present. Whenever they had guests who began to speak negatively about others, he would not interrupt but instead would simply gaze at the plaque until the guests saw it and got the message.
Haddon Robinson told that story and then asked a very convicting question. Are the absent safe around you? Or do you take advantage of their absence to say things about them that you wouldn’t say in their presence? Do you allow others to speak ill of them in your presence? It is a wonderful thing for your friends and family members to know that they are safe even when they are absent because you will not take advantage of them. And it is wonderful for your co-workers and neighbors and your fellow Christians and those who don’t know the Lord to know this much about you–that you will protect them even when they are absent, that you will guard their reputation and will not speak harshly or unkindly about them and that you will endeavor always to give them the benefit of the doubt as much as you can. That certainly means
No cheap shots
No sharing of gossip
No repeating of rumors
No judging of motives
No sharing of details that should remain private
No trash talk
No angry invectives
No making yourself look good at the expense of others
No maximizing the sins of others
No adding aggravating details to make the absent look worse
No dismissing an unkind remark by saying, “I was only joking.”
So here we are--the day after Easter. This is a good time to make a new start. We would do well to ponder this question today. Are the absent safe around you?