Not all “talking about” others is gossip. In Matthew 18, Jesus gives the church instructions on how to approach and discipline an erring Brother in Christ. The one that knows of the sin, should go privately and deal with the matter. If the Brother repents, the issue is dropped and nothing more needs to be said. But if the Brother refuses to listen, then you take 2 or 3 witnesses. Well, this requires that you have passed on information to these other trusted souls. That’s not gossip. It’s the necessary communication of vital information with the right motive to rescue a soul from death. Gossip’s motive has nothing to do with love and care for souls. There are spiritual truths that require we get past the passé and formulaic rules we have learned. Warnings against gossip are to be taken seriously, but should not be applied to the extent that the church can’t do its mission.
An example of oversimplification of Jesus’ teachings is seen when a Brother says, “let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth”. He thinks he is being pious to lay down this rule on every instance of good deeds. It usually manifest itself in a refusal to pray publicly. And he is fastidious to keep his giving a secret. And for him this attention to secrecy may be necessary and warranted. But the Scriptures cannot be saying that all of our good works be hidden, so that no one sees it is me that has done it. My experience is that those who abide by this strict interpretation have not considered the matter as deeply as it deserves. In Matthew 5, Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Jesus is not contradicting Himself in the same sermon. But the person who, “doesn’t let his giving be seen”, is unfazed by this extra ripple of knowledge that is absolutely necessary in true piety. Jesus is not saying not to give publicly or not to pray publicly, as He Himself did show many works publicly. Jesus is saying that you must check your motives for all of your works lest your deeds be tainted with impure motives of pride. The inability of a Christian to respect this distinction of giving with pure and impure motives might indicate a person who has stopped growing and favors the formula for covering his own hidden weaknesses.
Gossiping is a terrible sin where one relishes the discovery and telling of secret knowledge concerning others. The retelling of gossip doesn’t care about the soul. Gossip is a carnal activity of an unspiritual person. Sooner or later, in the care of souls, spiritual people must share information they have with others who can help to rescue a straying Christian. This is not gossip and such private information is never shared with someone who is unspiritual.
Paul received the “report” that Corinth was immersed in division and sin, 1 Cor. 5:1ff. That was not gossip. Paul received information from Chloe’s people and it was not sin, 1 Cor. 1:11. The work of God requires communication. Sometimes good news and sometimes bad. At all times, Christians must check their motives if they are pure in the retelling. With the right motive, which is care for the soul, retelling information is as holy an activity as bringing the matter to God in prayer. If you can talk to God about your concern for a fellow Christian (e.g. not like this guy, Lk 18:11), then you may tell others if it is done according to the prescribed guidelines given in Matthew 18:15-20.
God bless you. Dan M
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