Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's Not Gossip...It's Discernment

It's crazy easy to make big sweeping assumptions about the people closest to us. It's certainly easier to jump to conclusions then to actually communicate. This is a problem, and it's a particularly big problem in the church. Of course we don't call it "assumptions", we are Christians and we speak fluent "Christianese". When we are gossiping with believers about other believers we use spiritual sounding words like "gift of discernment" or (like one friend used to say) "spiritual antenna". My friend used to say, "Whenever I'm around so-and-so, my spiritual antenna goes up", and then she would go on to tell me how she suspected so-and-so of adultery or some other bad behavior. But it's okay because the gossip session always ends with "we need to keep the family in our prayers".

One afternoon, after months of conflict, I was finally able to get a woman who I had considered a dear friend to tell me what I'd done to upset her. She made many accusations, including this one: "One day you were walking towards me in the hallway at church. When you saw me, you turned and walked the other way. I have no choice but to assume you are jealous of me." What? What!!!?? No choice? Assume? Really?

Eliot Spitzer was the governor of New York and he had to step down in disgrace when it was revealed that he was a frequent costumer of a prostitute. The irony was that Governor Spitzer had been a vocal opponent to prostitution and had been trying to shut down illegal sex rings for years. Psychologists came out in droves to explain to John Q. Public that it is human nature to condemn the same flaws in others that we are trying to hide in ourselves. We think that by deflecting attention off of us, we will successfully hide our sins from the world.

Several years ago a much loved local pastor had to leave the pulpit when knowledge of an extra-marital affair came to light. Just a few weeks ago an acquaintance of mine told me that the pastor hadn't changed and was not repentant. I asked her how she knew that. "I just do!" That pastor, however, has become a public speaker who encourages others and helps people find healing and restoration. I am not inside the pastor's head and I can't begin to assume to know his heart. I do see, however, that what Satan meant for evil, God is using for His good and glory.

We don't know what motivates people to say and do the things they say and do. Heck, we don't always know what motivates US! It would serve us, both personally and corporately, if we were quick to communicate and slow to assume. Do you sit in your pew and point out the weaknesses, sins, and foibles all God's kids? We're just like you - sinners saved by grace. Let's stop pointing fingers at each other. Instead, let's give one another a hand of compassion and support. Let's get of the pew of gossip and onto the road of peace and restoration.

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