When we fight and condemn one another, denounce other Christians and divide from them, fostering all kinds of divisions within the church, then we do not have the mind of Christ. – Christopher Wright
If I were to give an account for every word that I have spoken throughout my life, I would be woefully ashamed of many things I’ve said about others without their knowledge. In a world that remains in darkness, the church bodies in our communities sadly has its light for Christ dimmed due to in-fighting, gossip, slander, and the like. They have become respectable sins, those sins that are in our lives that aren’t nearly as bad as adultery and murder and thus eat away at our relationships since they aren’t confronted.
The above quote is from the book Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit. In the chapter about peace, Wright bemoans the reality that many of our church communities are ravaged by condemnation and accusations being thrown to and fro. There is no peace it seems in the body of Christ.
I want to first address and confess my sins in this area. In my first years in ministry, there were many times where I spoke poorly about those who had no ability to defend themselves since they weren’t even privy to the conversations being had. I belittled spiritual leadership in authority over me, I poked fun at others’ expense, and spouted off about anyone and everyone when given even the slightest sliver of an opportunity.
All of this I did with very little remorse or even concern. In my prideful state of mind, I was simply speaking truth in the midst of those who had strayed from it. In my arrogant state of mind, I was merely calling people out due to their sin (btdubs, the Bible never calls for us to call people out for their sin via conversations without their presence).
I am grateful to God that I have seen a lot of growth in this area since I moved back to Texas. Although I am still prone to falling into sin in this area, God has brought me a long way.
Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. . . . . may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 15:2, 5-6
How do we glorify God as a community?
We live in harmony.
We build up our neighbor, our brother or sister in Christ.
My heart breaks when I see full grown adults bickering with one another and gossiping about each other. My heart breaks when I fall into this sin. We are not called to speak poorly about anyone, much less someone who also calls Jesus Christ their Lord.
The above passage is encouraging in its phrasing. The ability to live in harmony with all people, no matter what, is brought about by the God whose vary character is one of endurance and encouragement. We can encourage others and find the endurance to do so even when nobody else is, because that is the character of our God.
Here’s just a few quick ways that we can combat this insidious sin in our churches.
1. Confront Sin Privately (and be willing to be confronted)
As I said earlier, in previous seasons of ministry, I used the excuse that I was simply confronting sin when I went around gossiping and slandering. That’s not how the Bible teaches us to confront sin. We are to admonish and exhort one another privately, in the context of already established relationships. On a vastly important note, I have no right to speak into the attitudes and lifestyles of others if I give no one the opportunity to confront sin in my life without getting defensive or upset.
Instead of gossiping to others; lovingly, kindly, humbly, bring up the matter at hand in private conversation.
2. Speak Up
This is the hardest one for me to do. I don’t very often. But one way that we can correct the sins of gossip and slander in our churches is by speaking up and saying that we aren’t going to allow it. We should go about this in a manner of humility, not accusing or attacking those who are in the moment gossiping. We must simply remind one another that it divides the church against itself, and that nothing good EVER comes from gossip and slander.
As a twenty-five year old, it’s difficult for me to speak up against it in certain contexts, but we are called by God to make peace.
The final way that we can confront gossip and slander is by consistently and constantly encouraging others. In his book, Side by Side, Edward Welch encourages his readers to see the good in all people.
The goal here is to keep our eyes open for good things in others. When we see good things, we savor them and point them out. As you get to know people, you will encounter many hard things, some unattractive things, but if you also see good, you will see people more as God does, and that is a blessing. – Edward Welch
Instead of being men and women who claim to follow Jesus yet tear down their sibling in the Lord, let us be men and women who consistently build others up. Find the good, and speak about it. When the temptation to slander comes up, encourage. When the temptation to bemoan someone’s actions comes up, speak instead about the good that you see in them.
We live in a dark world, this is true.
Instead of tearing one another down through incessant gossip and slander, we can bind together and transform into the community that people desire to be about.
My question is, are you part of the problem?
I know I have been at times.
God’s grace is greater than your sin and mine.
Let’s be people who leave gossip and slander behind.