There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and and he that sows discord among brethren. Proverbs 6:16-19
Joanna wanted to tell Liang that someone had spoken against him. If the accusation was true, she needed to protect her little ones. If it was false, she wanted to defend Liang. She needed to find out the truth.
Needing solitude and time to think, she withdrew from her friends. Liang did not know what had happened to her. She appeared to be very distant to him. Liang went to see White Flower, who lived just two houses away. “She has thrown me out of the house” he said, jokingly.
White Flower, feeling for Liang, replied “Oh, I am so sorry – but I am sure she will find out that all of this is not true. Do you want me to talk to her?” Liang looked puzzled. “What? What are you talking about?” he asked.
Just then Joanna contacted White Flower, “Please do not say anything to him about the accusation, for I have not told him about it.”
“Oh” White Flower said, disconcerted.
She turned to Liang. “I am sorry; I cannot tell you what I am talking about. You had best talk to her.”
“What is this about?” he asked.
“Think of your worst nightmare and it will be that” she said gravely.
Liang went back to Joanna with questions.
She told him what had happened, “Unless it is substantiated, I am going to treat it as slander. But we need to stop seeing each other while I get this mess sorted out. The King did request that I step back from you for a time, and I ignored Him, when I should not have.”
The Bright One revealed that the slander had come from his friend Andrew, who said he heard it from his best friend.
“I want the name of his friend” Joanna demanded. The Bright One was not forthcoming. Undeterred, she asked White Flower to pay a social visit to Andrew’s unsuspecting wife.
“I need that name” she said. White Flower was happy to oblige.
While having a cup of tea with Andrew’s wife, White Flower made conversation.
“You have not been married long, have you?” she asked disingenuously, “I would love to see your wedding dress. Do you have some wedding photos?”
As she leafed through the wedding album, admiring the dress, she pointed to Andrew’s best man, and in all innocence asked “I’ve think I’ve met him somewhere. Is he a local? What’s his name?”
Later, armed with the name, she went back to Joanna with a satisfied smile.
Liang was calm in the face of the attack, but when he learned from White Flower that the accusation had come through the Bright One, he was angry. He confronted the Bright One saying “Look, I do not dislike you, but I dislike this! If you will not tell me who it was who spoke against me, then he needs to come forward.”
The Bright One agreed, “I am going to confront Andrew, the brother who made the accusation. Do you want to come with me?”
“Yes, I think that it is best if we tackle him together” she said, as she pulled on her armour. She had already contacted Andrew’s baffled friend who did not know Liang.
They knocked and walked into the house of Andrew, the slanderer. Andrew who was busy sanding gib-board, looked up but did not stop. White dust filled the air and clung to him. He looked like a ghoul.
The atmosphere grew tense as Andrew ignored them and carried on working. Sensing trouble, Joanna grew very uncomfortable at being in this old house. It was a dragon’s den. Finally the Bright One politely interjected in the conversation Andrew was having with his father, and asked to talk about the accusation.
Andrew did not want to talk, but the Bright One calmly stood his ground and insisted it be resolved. Feeling himself pushed into a corner, Andrew weighed his options, his face expressionless. He did not like being confronted.
Without warning, he snapped and lunged for the Bright One. Andrew’s father stepped in to separate them. A tall Maori, the Bright One could easily have decked Andrew, but he chose not to hit him. Assisted by Andrew’s father, he held him off.
Again and again Andrew attacked the Bright One. White dust filled the air. The Bright One allowed himself to be pushed out the door.
Joanna grimaced at Andrew’s father and bolted out the door after them.
After the scuffling had ended and they were a safe distance from the house Joanna looked at the Bright One, and laughed at his appearance. His light olive skin was covered in white powder, his black hair stood on end, and he sported a torn shirt and cut lip. She was still laughing shakily as they walked away.
The Bright One threw a droll smile at Joanna and said “Well sis, I guess we got our answer.”
“I already knew. I talked to his friend and found out it wasn’t true” she confessed. The Bright One was puzzled. How did she know who Andrew’s friend was? She told him about the scheme hatched with White Flower.
The Bright One shook his head at their conniving. “Women! You girls are tricky!” he said aghast, his face a flaming mixture of amazement and dismay.
“I am sorry, but I acted out of necessity” she said, as if the ends justified the means. “What do we do now?” she asked, wanting to move on.
“We’ll do what the King said to do in circumstances like this, and tell it to the church” he replied.
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17
Later, they called in the pastors of Andrew and the Bright One, explaining what had happened. As the circle of friends was an informal group, belonging to many different churches, there was no formal oversight.
The pastors knew the group as they had come along to their meals as visitors. They listened carefully, asked questions and sought the Lord, their prayer echoing her own “Lord, let justice be the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line.” Isaiah 28:17
Joanna left the matter in their hands. Whether they applied church discipline to Andrew, she did not know. Andrew’s wife had not been involved, and was still welcome with the circle of friends. She did not get upset at Joanna and White Flower’s machinations, but chose to stay, even though Andrew was now excluded from the circle.