When Christ and the Apostles talked about gossip it was never categorized. It was never said that if the gossip was “the truth” it was somehow ok. Why? Because “truth” is a highly subjective thing. You think you’re telling “the truth”, but everything you believe is filtered through your own life experiences and prejudices. Simply put, unless you’re directly quoting a reliable source, your “truth” is your truth, and not necessarily the truth. I am thinking of one of my favorite movies, Couple’s Retreat. My favorite and often quoted line in my house is “I know my truth”. I don’t want to ruin the comedy, so go rent it and have a laugh.
Gossip has no place in the mouth of a believer…period. Where is gossip most dangerous?…the cause of Christ in the local church. As I think about what unfolded with Mark Driscoll in 2014, I am sickened at the way the “church” handled it. The “church” went public with tons of shameful attacks and “revelations” intended to bring Pastor Driscoll down. Shameful. Even if Pastor Driscoll were the “devil” he was made out to be, handling things publicly proved to do only one thing: cast aspersion on the body of Christ. The outside world got a dose of the ugliness of Christians attacking one another and putting so-called corruption in the church on public display for hoards of unbelieving critics to rally against. So writers everywhere began their public execution of not only Mark Driscoll but the body of Christ as a whole. We were all lumped in as corrupt, money-mongering, misogynistic, controlling ministries. Christians were put on trial, not just Mars Hill Church. It was a sick feeding frenzy, unfit for anyone who professes themselves to be a Christian to participate in. Again, the only outcome was a black eye for Christianity. Well done people.
They hid behind rhetoric about how vital it was to protect innocent people in the church while at the same time destroying her reputation with the non-believing masses. They felt they had the right to do God’s job and bring correction because they were dissatisfied with the elders’ handling of the “problem”. They thought they were righteous but by the Bible’s definition, they are gossips. They were nothing more than a lynch mob using the Bible as a blunt instrument and an excuse to behave in the most unbiblical of ways. In my lifetime, I have rarely seen such a sad display from the “church”. Whether Pastor Driscoll is a saint or Satan, nothing justifies the public trial committed by the “church”.
The scripture is clear that we shouldn’t go to trial in secular courts against each other. The same applies for the court of public opinion because the potential damage to the cause of Christ is even more grave. However, the bigger picture rarely matters to the disgruntled. For them…it’s all about them. They are compelled to air their own grievances and play the part of the victim; the reputation of the body be damned. What makes this all worse is that their “truth” is so often warped by their own emotional discontent.
The worst offenders are usually those who have left a church. The world is against them and it’s everyone’s fault but theirs. They are the blameless victims of a tyrant pastor or church board. They complain in public spaces and spin tales of their mistreatment. They reduce the big picture to a fantasized portrait of their personal suffering, which of course is all that matters to them. They rarely if ever think about what the outside world thinks about when they read what should be internal correspondence. They don’t consider the black eye they are giving to the body they claim to love. They model unforgiveness and intolerance and justify it as righteous indignation, which is necessary to protect the innocents from the evils of their former leaders. It’s a case of the supposed cure being more harmful than the disease…if there even really was a disease to begin with.
It would be much better if such people would ask the question, “what good will come from this?” However, they don’t because they are only thinking about their own need to be right. “Brothers and sisters, this ought not be” is what Paul would say. Paul would instruct us to only let what is edifying to the body proceed from our mouths. Gossip and slander have no place proceeding from the mouths of saints. We ought not profess love for God and the saints yet curse each other with the same tongue. On this point the scripture is crystal clear.
Lastly, for the gossip, where is Jesus in all this? If you have truly been wronged, are you offering forgiveness? Are you praying for those who persecuted or harmed you? Are you trusting God to deal with the situation or do you feel compelled to go online and play the victim and solicit pity? And what about the church? Are you ok tearing apart the church in the name of your own emotional needs? The church needs to grow up and start working together and stand up against the wiles of the enemy. You may feel you need to stand up against “tyranny” and uphold “your truth” but you don’t, that’s God’s job. To engage the unbelieving public in your quest for justice only destroys the church you claim to love.
PS. Throughout this article I put the word “church” in quotes. You may think it was an attempt at sarcasm. Actually let the quotes remind you how the unchurched reads what we write. When the church doesn’t act like the church, we will never be taken seriously. We’ll be a punch-line which is sadly what we are becoming. It’s time for the “church” to be the church.