Gossip or Gospel?
Words for 13th Sunday after Trinity – 6th September 2020 – A cyber sermon from the Vicarage
Text: If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him – work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. (Matthew 18v15 – The Message)
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.
‘Careless talk, costs lives’ the wartime posters reminded the people of Britain during the Second World War and, for that time, letting slip secrets about troop and ship dispositions could well lead to disaster for people on your own side.
It’s a pity that society in general, and the church in particular seems to too easily forget those words of wisdom. Jesus’ instructions to the disciples as to how to deal gently and gracefully with those who have wandered from the straight and narrow seem to have been, sadly, more honoured in the breach.
We know that we, the undeserving recipients of God’s forgiveness are supposed to lead the way in offering forgiveness before condemnation and welcome before rejection yet it seems that, instead of extending the gift of grace to those who are weak, we fall into some sort of Spiritual Nimbyism objecting to offering others the forgiveness we ourselves have received.
Instead of, ‘If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him – work it out between the two of you’ it is too easy to give into the temptation of a little ‘Careless talk’. Instead of offering a gospel of love and grace we too can fall into the temptation of gossiping about the faults of a fellow member of the Body of Christ and end up ‘Costing llives’ and eternal lives at that. How sad.
Too often it seems that people read the scripture verse wrongly and read it as if it says;
‘If a fellow believer hurts you, be mortally offended, whisper (in their hearing) about them over after service coffee, and make an indignant post on social media saying how “bad” they are.’
Or worse still, say nothing at all to the ‘offender’ and simply turn a cold shoulder towards them letting them know that they are wrong but refusing to reveal what they did or how they can begin to make amends.
This is not walking in the footsteps of our Beloved who ‘was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death – his death on the cross.’ (Philippians 2v8). This is wanting revenge on others and often for the smallest of meanest of ‘offences’.
When I find myself doing this – regrettably, ordination does not give you immunisation from sin and self-seeking – I kick myself each time, pledge to bite my tongue in future, and try to make reparations out of the mess of my uncharitableness. Too often this is not possible and I discover the once again that ‘Careless talk’ does indeed ‘Cost lives’…
How do we stop this from happening?
How do we become people who resist the temptation to shout loudly that we have been wronged?
What can we do to love each other better?
The Gospel reading gives a simple modus operandi.
Speak to the ‘offender’ privately (you never know they may not even know they caused offence).
If that doesn’t work bring along one or two others to get a sense of perspective other than your own.
Finally, if it’s really serious – most often our disagreements aren’t and perversely we don’t talk about the ‘big’ sins – then ask the gathered church to lend its wisdom.
Sounds simple doesn’t it? So why is it so little used as a way to cope with disagreements and instead we choice Gossip over Gospel?
For me I own to occasionally relish, just a little, in being offended. I sometimes think ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ was one of my forebears! There is no revenge and no fun at all in quietly resolving a conflict. I don’t get to flaunt my credentials as a ‘righteous’ person who has been wronged. I don’t get to put someone else down. I don’t get to proclaim in front of the Throne of grace ‘what a good little boy am I’. And as I do this I forget that, before our Beloved, any good deed I do is like unto a filthy rag and without the grace of God not one of us is righteous, no not one.
It seems that we cannot help ourselves and this is where we need the help of our sisters and brothers in Christ. It takes only one person to live and spread the Gospel but it takes at least two to gossip!
In relationship dynamics when we let ourselves be caught up in gossip we often become part of what is called a Drama Triangle between, ‘Aggressor’, ‘Victim’ and ‘Rescuer’. I’ve put the three roles in italics as, in the end, everyone involved ends up as a Victim. All lose everything, even those who feel they may have ‘won’ and the Body of Christ is weakened and diminished.
Here is how we help each other find repentance and forgiveness, reparation and reconciliation.
Refuse to listen to whispers about others.
Don’t be a party to gossip.
Ask those who feel grieved if they have spoken to the person who grieved them.
And if we do happen to be involved in a disagreement ensure that all sides of the story are heard and resist the temptation to take sides. After all both sides are part of the same Body of Christ and we do want the whole of the Church to be healthy don’t we?
When we chose Gossip over Gospel at its worse we end up taking each other to courts (It happened in the early Corinthian church and it still happens today). Then, as Paul reminds us, not resolving our disagreements, we ‘empty the Cross of its power (1 Corinthians 1.10-17).
And if we, the purveyors of the Gospel are at war with each other, how can we ever proclaim the words of the Prince of Peace to a world rift by division?
Surely it’s much better to at least give the advice of Jesus a try?
If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him – work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend.
…and I would much rather have and be a friend than be hurting or hurt.
What about you?
[This blog ‘Gossip or Gospel?’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]