Tuesday, July 29

Self-righteous, condemning, uninformed gossip....

Maybe I was mistaken four years ago when I thought I heard God speak my purpose into my ear, which exlicted a sharp, loud laugh from my lips and an hour of walking and pacing in discussion with the Father about such silliness. Maybe I was just wishful thinking and talking to God while He was thinking, 'What is this boy talking about? What Call?'.

Let me tell you a story.

Two men come to church, every Sunday. Both are Christians.

One walks with the swagger of a righteous man, speaking loudly in Christian-ez, always raising his hands in worship, and booming a loud "Amen" when the Preacher makes a biblical point. He is well-liked and respected within the church. Whenever there is a financial need, his flourishing signature is a welcomed site on the large donations he gives. He proudly proclaims the things he is involved in, his work within the church, and his ministries that he belongs to outside of the church. He calls church his second home. His wife is involved with ministries within the church, is in the choir, and they sit in the front row each and every event at the church. You know alot about this guy and his wife, because he is one of the more vocal members of the church and you can always find out about someone else from him; he seems to know everything.

The other man walks as if under a heavy burden. You know through the grapevine that he struggles with financial, health, and drugs. He always sits in the back of the church, praying fervently that God will help him overcome, that he knows he is unworthy of the love of God, and solely relies on the mercy of God's grace to redeem him. He can't tithe because he is constantly struggling to maintain home, food, and his vehicle. He scraps together what few dollars he can and gives as he can. He doesn't proclaim himself, but is always there when there is a dirty and heavy project to do. Then he silently drifts away. He is in a divorce, his wife and he have separated..for what reasons you haven't asked. He starts bringing a friend to church, her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend, the latter two who have accepted Christ as a matter of being involved with the church. It appears there is something going on between the two but you aren't certain. Beyond that, you don't know much about him.

Who do you think goes home restored? Who do you think you should be involved with? Who would Jesus sit with in the walls of the church? Who would Jesus condemn as self-righteous? Who would you gossip about with your friends and the leadership?

During our last 'coffee shop chat', the Pastor of the church I attend discussed with me some concerns he had regarding my friendship with a woman attending church with me. We discussed the relationship, its possible future, and the dangers that lie within. His parting words were, "A minister's reputation is golden. You need to be above board if that is where you want to go."

Who's testimony in the story above is more damaging to those either saved or unsaved that view these two? The sinner, saved, but struggling to overcome deep seated tendencies ---who shows a constant and continual reliance upon God or the one who seems to have it all together and let's everyone know it?

We have watched over the past few years many evangelical leaders fall and fall hard from the hidden lives they have lived outside the church walls, many catholic leaders condemned and imprisoned due to sexual sin that was covered up by the high leadership, and many Christians within the walls of our church leave, misaligned because we don't know them that well and make judgments between the whispered comments of our friends as we decide what the appearance of is.

"And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”” Luke 18:9-17 (NASB)

Pastor John Piper, author of "Desiring God", posted an article on Crosswalk.com entitled Talking to People. "Jesus was looking the Pharisees in the eye and telling them a parable that implied that they were self-righteous," Pastor Piper says about this parable in Luke, "He was not talking about them but to them."

No matter where you go, be it in the church, at a picnic, or at your job, there is someone always 'talking' about someone else. My friend Cherie made the comment, "If they are talking about you, at least that means they aren't talking about someone else."

It is often about some aspect of their lives, either a situation that they or a loved one is going through or a circumstance that they are enduring. And too often, even within the body of Christ, gossip abounds as people talk about what they see rather than what they know, with decisions being made without full information and cobbled together whispers of 'friends'. It is a mean, vicious thing that too many times we forget can hurt and damage someone's walk with God; regardless of the fact it hurts the person themselves.

Jesus, as Piper said, talked to the Pharisees and not about them. He spoke to them about their self-righteousness and not behind their backs about apparent sin in their lives. Jesus became involved, weaving Himself into the lives of the Pharisees and gently pryed their hands away from their protected hearts with a parable.

Sometimes He was gentle and other times, the love He had for those He spoke to had the edge of conviction in it...much like Nathaniel did with David in 2 Samuel 12:1-4
(BBE) "Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb which he bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, and was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him." Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. “He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.” Nathan then said to David, “You are the man!

There isn't a place within the body of Christ for gossip. Gossip will destroy the very thing that God calls us to be within the body; in relationship with each other. Calling each other to a higher standard, edifying what is right and instructing in love what is wrong.

Laziness, not being involved with another in this journey home that we all are engaged in, is what gossip is. When there is no involvement with another person, you cannot point and say, "Hey, look at that! A sinner!" But we don't want to be involved because that would mean we cannot pride ourselves on getting it right, expressing our opinions and not have them snap back in our face, or be involved in the messy process of restoration. The result....

"...................they will learn to be lazy and will spend their time gossiping from house to house, meddling in other people’s business and talking about things they shouldn’t." 1 Timothy 5:13 (NLT)

To be able to come to a brother or a sister with a burden of a 'apparent' sin, you need to be involved with that person ---walk a mile in their shoes, and see what the circumstances, situation, or even the motivation is that has caused this doubt to speak to your heart. And, to be involved means you are responsible to be trustworthy with another's heart, and not whisper your rumors to those who you know will support your opinion.

Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart. Proverbs 18:8 (NLT)

The Life of Freedom course, Henry Wright's healing prosperity gospel, that I am attending at Soul Quest, along with Cherie, Holly, and Hayden, was like an old family reunion visit; many 'friends' that I had at what was once my Home Church are attending the class.

Apparently, because they feel they know the situation that exist, they feel compelled to bring their thoughts to the attention of their friends who invited them to attend the study.

I have not corrected their impressions of what has happened between me and Kristy. I have not gone out of my way to inform them what happened, what was involved, what was done, what wasn't done, and anything specific to the situation. They haven't asked. They've accepted Kristy's explaination that "she's helping a friend get their life together, and I am the one who has caused the rift."

And the gossip at the church is why I decided to leave so long ago.

Now the 'gossip' has come to the current church and it has altered many within the 'family' in regards to me and those associated with me. Whereas before the first night of class began, people within the family at the current church were coming up to myself, Cherie, Holly, and Hayden and speaking with us on a regular basis, very few will come around now.

Even the ones who spoke to me on a regular basis have been silent.

Even though God is visible in Holly's life as she hungers for His word.

Apparently, though, the gossip mill didn't stop there within the realm of the class or the environment of the church walls. It was evident at the church's annual picinic, too, that there were those, totally uninvolved in my life, that decided that they know what is going on.

I brought my ex-wife, Carol; her sister, Betty Jo; Betty Jo's kids; my children, Casey and Sara; Cherie, Holly, and Hayden; and Cherie's sister and her husband, Brenda and Tony to the picinic which was open to the congregation and their family and friends.

I brought those important to me to what I believed would be a pleasant afternoon.

We set up near the pavilion and did what most people do....gathered together to enjoy the meal. Holly, Hayden, and my son Casey were going to be baptized in the Pontiac Lake after dinner.

The picinic lasted four hours. It could've been a century with what I shamefully endured, and what my guests were exposed to; Glances under covered eyes, whispers that would end when someone with my party would come near. Yet no one, not one of the brothers and sisters gathered came over to speak about what they thought was going on. No one came over and fellowshipped with two new people that were coming to a picinic of believers for the first time. No one.

I remarked to Cherie, as we discussed this away from the pavilion, having a cigarette at my car how the people who are 'christian' are acting about her and I. Yes, I am struggling with my smoking habit again, after a year and a half of successful restraint. No one, except the Pastor, has engaged us to any degree to make a determination of whether there is a need for accountability or even if sin exists. Appearances are deceiving, but no one wants to engage me on a personal level to find out if what they believe is true is true.

Love is more often a painful exercise in relating because there are sinful, broken human beings involved and people hurt people, unintentionally and with malice. But Jesus doesn't call us to live pain-free lives, but to go boldly into those painful potentials with love and grace. The opposite of our human self-protecting conflict avoiding natures. Our consciences, when tuned in to God's call, don't allow us to be comfortable with the easy path because we know we are not loving those we encounter. We gossip about others to make ourselves seem more righteous, more holy, and fail to realize we are being pharisical in our dealings.

We should gather those in our family together, encouraging them with the evidence of grace we see within their lives and speaking boldly of the power of the Spirit which resides in the heart of every Christian, backsliding or not, with words of caution, warning, correction, or even rebuking.

" We encourage you, brothers and sisters, to instruct those who are not living right, cheer up those who are discouraged, help the weak, and be patient with everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14 GWT)

"[Jesus] died for us so that all the logs and specks in our eyes may be forgiven. That should give us both courage and care in dealing with others," Pastor Piper concludes his article, "Especially when we realize that the faults of our brothers and sisters have also been forgiven by Jesus."

I am accountable to God and He convicts me of sin, of wayward wandering, and of purpose. He has admonished me several times for sins I've committed, struggle with and fight against with a win and lose record.

Regardless of whether I become a pastor or never grace the stage in front of bible believing family, I am not concerned with the apparent reputation that others label me with, based on what they think they know and what they see, piecing together a list of lynching crimes that will keep me from fulfilling a call from God. They don't have the grace to find out the story and commit to a biblical perspective in its handling, so why would I?

I don't feel the need to 'correct' the story that is out there, either given by Kristy or 'pieced together' by those who feel they know the situation. I don't feel the desire to correct those 'opinions' formed on the basis of what those people think they know. I have spoken with those who have asked me for clarification, what precious few there are, and I have engaged with those who actively seek to engage me. And I always will.

There is no purpose in engaging those who think they know and have formed an opinion based on what their eyes can see, the wounds they have experienced in their own lives, and the gossip they've heard from others.

Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. Proverbs 26:20 (NIV)

My testimony is this; untarnished no matter how many times I fail, commit a sin/am broken/ and restored, I have only one person I want to impress. He will command a righteous fire to burn whatever I have built on this earth and what remains, what is built of materials worthy of His salvation, will remain as the impurities and sinful material is burned away. I will be content with His decisions, because:

I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. Psalm 116:1-2

That is where my reputation is the most important and most protected; because He knows my heart. But, what of the reputations of those who judge without knowledge? Those who gossip and put on a 'club' image that outsiders cannot belong to?

Who is the one who goes home redeemed?

A sinner who knows without God there is no hope; who confesses and repents their sins.

Or a righteous self-denying Christian who decides they know what sins are committed by others and refusing to see the lumber in their own eyes?

No comments: