Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 31, 1957
NUMBER 26, PAGE 2-3b

"Good Understanding Giveth Favor"

A. M. Plyler, Jasper, Alabama

The heading that serves as a caption for this article is found in Proverbs 13:15. Just exactly what the writer of Proverbs had in mind in this statement, I have never claimed to know fully. But the truth of the statement is apparent on every hand. It is something that every careful observer has learned in the society of men. To know and to understand people is almost invariably to regard and respect them more. With this in view, we propose to write a few lines on the subject of "good understanding," which we hope and pray will not be amiss in our troubled state of affairs among the people of God.

It is my contention, and has been, that the greatest cause for the divided state of affairs among us is found in the one word, "misunderstandings." From the seed and roots of misunderstandings grow a great forest of misrepresentations. And from misrepresentations grow strife, alienation, unrest, and every thing that is evil. Do you agree with me on this point?

A simple story or two will help to illustrate this point. A little less than forty years ago, I read in the Christian Leader this brief story: As a passenger train was gently rolling down the line, making an occasional stop at the stations along the way, it was noticed by the passengers in the coach that a man sat near the front of the coach, holding a fretful baby in his arms. The man seemed to be worried and uneasy as the baby continued to fret and cry; he worked patiently, however, trying to soothe the child and induce it to sleep. But without much success. As this went on for some time, the passengers, some of them, began to lose their patience, and to make audible remarks about the fretful child. Finally, one woman in the car was heard to say to the conductor, "Tell that man if he cannot get that little brat to hush, he ought to get off the train, or throw it out the window! I'm tired of listening to its bawling."

The baby finally cried itself to sleep. By this time the train was pulling to a stop at a small village. The man stood up with the baby in his arms, and turning to the passengers, said, "Friends, I am sorry that the baby has worried some of you; but I am sure you do not understand. One week ago we went down this road on this train, and the baby was laughing and happy. Its mother was along. But today the mother is in her casket in the baggage car ahead, and the baby is crying for its mother." Of course, with this statement the whole atmosphere of the scene was changed, and every one present felt sympathetic toward the motherless baby and its grieving father.

Much of our troubles, alienation, and division would also melt away if we understood one another better, And may God help us all to that end.

Somewhere along life's way I have picked up this story: In a certain community a young married couple, deeply devoted to each other, lived happily together. The young man had obtained a job in a nearby factory, which required of him a certain amount of work on the night shift. On the nights he had to work, his wife would go to a neighbor's house not far away to spend the night. But as time went on this proved troublesome and inconvenient. Finally, she decided one night just to remain in her own home, and not go to the neighbors. She was not scared, but just as an added precaution after locking the doors, she placed her husband's revolver on a chair beside her bed. It so happened that there was a breakdown in the machinery at the factory that very night, and the husband left the factory to return home only a couple of hours after he had reported for work. Knowing that all the doors to his house would be locked, and not having the key with him, he decided to enter his house through the bed-room window rather than go to the neighbor's to awaken his wife. But as he was crawling through the window, his wife awakened, frantically grabbed the revolver and shot at the figure dimly outlined in the opening. When the neighbors arrived they found the man dead and his wife sobbing with shock and grief. The tragedy came about because of a failure to recognize the facts in the case.

Sometimes a misunderstanding may work out for good — but only when "good understanding" has replaced it. This writer at the early age of sixteen left home to attend college. The first Sunday night away from home was an eventful one. At the service I sat between two young ladies whom I knew, and all of us were disturbed by some small boys on a seat in front of us who were playing and causing a general commotion. Finally, I shook my finger at them and indicated by gestures that they should be quiet. A teacher in the college was present, and happened to glance in my direction just as I was pointing my finger at the boys. Soon the report was out that I had "shaken my fist" at the preacher! On hearing the rumor, I went immediately to the teacher and asked if she had started the story. She admitted that she had. When I explained to her what had actually happened, she humbly apologized, and promised that she would do everything she could to correct the false report she had started.

Life, from the cradle to the grave, is but a bundle of ups and downs, ins and outs, sweets and bitters, joys and sorrows. And no man liveth to himself and no man dieth to himself; we are all our brother's keeper. Sorrow, sadness, strife, grief, tears, and death are all of the devil. Life will be longer, brighter, sweeter, and better when the people of God patiently work, labor, and wait for "good understanding" among themselves.

Somewhere out in the great beyond we must stand before our Maker, with the leaves, or sheaves, we have gathered here; with many of us the evening shadows are already lengthening, and life's sun is already inclining toward the horizon. I should like, before I go, to say or do something to help bring about a better understanding among my brethren. I feel sure there are thousands of others who feel the same way. But to do this, the cause of misunderstanding must be located, determined, and removed.

Will the reader now engage with me in a brief study of some of the causes of strife, alienation, disfellowship, and misunderstanding among us today?

Prejudice is, I think, one of the causes of our trouble today. Prejudice has always been a tool of the devil. The word means premature judgment; to reach a decision or make up one's mind when only a part of the evidence is in and has been heard.

We have two or more religious papers among us that began their publication before I was born, and I grew up reading them. Of course, I learned to rely upon what they said, and without any doubt or question, was willing to accept most of what I found in them as true. Some years past there appeared in one of these papers from time to time, articles ridiculing another religious journal. I accepted what was said; and looked upon the editor and contributors of the journal under attack as cranks and hobbyists. I was prejudiced; I had not examined the evidence on the other side.

A man walks out into the forest looking for a straight tree. He realizes that a tree may look straight from one side or one angle, and show up crooked when he views it from the other side. Hence, he must look at it from all sides before he can know whether it is straight or not. Prejudice prepares one's mind to misunderstand all that is said or all the evidence brought forth from the other side. To ever be able to overcome prejudice one must be willing to open his heart to all truth on the subject — on any subject. He must love the truth more than anything else on earth; otherwise, a strong delusion will cause him to believe a lie.

But more on this in another article.