I’m almost certain I have discussed this topic before, but lately I have fallen into the sin of gossip again. I need to repent and I need accountability. Sometimes, I use blogging for personal accountability and hopefully, my audience will act as another buffer against perpetual sin.
“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:15-20 NRSV).
Lately I have been feeding a social media addiction. I’m not quite sure why it brewed again, but it has. Sadly, whenever the hours drone on and I scroll, the unnecessary anger boils. I read biased, uneducated opinions being thrashed out, questioning the validity of other people’s opinions. I see pride puff up egos, even that of fellow Christian brethren. These posts rile me into defense. Why? What am I defending? Am I so afraid that their pride is a reflection of my own sin I need to confront?
[“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Matt. 7:3-5 NRSV).]
Sometimes the anger is justified because arrogance has no space in the body of Christ. Yet, when we don’t approach the individual with whom we have issue with, are we not also acting in arrogance? Are we bold enough to ask ourselves if our perception is off? If we are being too sensitive? The friend who I have become increasingly frustrated with over seemingly arrogant gym posts would probably think so. He is inclined to think that I take offense too easily. At times I can. Other times, he just needs to pause long enough to hear me. However, unless I address him, the vicious cycle of perceived offense and anger won’t stop.
Confronting individuals who wound our sensitivities is difficult. I don’t like it. I never have. See, I struggle with this little sin called approval addiction. [Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10 NRSV).] I want God’s approval. Gaining God’s approval results from a devoted, faithful commitment to Christ. Following Christ isn’t easy and anyone who teaches differently is selling a false gospel.
“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8 NRSV). Let’s read that again. “While we still were sinners Christ died for us.” Christ didn’t wait until we were the way he wanted us in order to redeem us. That type of love is incredibly radical. We can show devoted and faithful commitment to Christ when we demonstrate such radical love to those with whom we disagree, especially with those whom we might even be tempted to hate! Christ told us to love our enemies because even pagans love those who agree with them. True love radiates when it seems impossible. The world will know we are Christians by our love, a love that defies human rationality.
When we are tempted to be defensive, we need to remember “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1 NRSV). We are to answer gently because we should “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3 NRSV). Perhaps when we try to reposition perspective and seek to understand, rather than be understood, we will find the ability to remain calm and collected, answering politely rather than cruelly and defensively.
When we seek out others to vent, we run the risk of gossip. Gossip asserts that we are somehow superior to the offender. In reality, we become that which we speak of. It is “out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Lk. 6:45 NRSV). If we speak vile words about another, we become vile ourselves. Scripture commands that we “let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29 NRSV). That means we should only speak well of another person when others are listening. If we are inclined to speak maliciously, we need to assess our own condition. Through prayer, the Holy Spirit will guide the words we need to speak to those we are in conflict with. If we are heard, then we praise God for reconciliation. If we are not, then at least we know we tried and we can let the matter drop, or bring others into the conversation in the presence of the offender.
While this structure is difficult, it does seem to wind up with the most fruitful results. It isn’t surprising that this method seems to work best, even if it is hard. After all, God instituted this design for conflict resolution. Unfortunately, humanity is becoming increasingly inclined to use social media as a platform for asserting how we have been offended.
It seems everyone is offended these days rather than trying to understand another person’s position. Sometimes people will deliver their intended message in a seemingly hurtful manner. I know the friend with whom I’ve been inclined to vent about really just wants to encourage others. He has seen his dedication pay dividends for himself. His delivery of this message appears arrogant, but that isn’t his intent. When I realize this, I am able to extend the grace and mercy I didn’t think it possible to grant him.
Writing out these reminders is less of a rebuke for you, my readers. Rather, it is a journal tool I am using to process my emotions. I have to remind myself to think logically and biblically. Human emotions are fickle and change too quickly. Thankfully, as I digitally transcribe events, Scripture verses, and teaching, I am able to reorient my thinking and transform by behaviors. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2 NRSV). God’s will is for everyone to live peaceably as it depends on them. (Rom. 12:18 NRSV).
We will begin to live peaceably in so far as it depends on us when we express true love (agape). “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8 NRSV). Christ’s mercies are new each morning and by his example, we can extend new mercies to “enemies” every day.
Let us begin today. “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24 NRSV).
May I remember to do perform God’s method of conflict resolution before I divert to social media, blogging, or even another friend in person. I need to address concerns with the person with whom I have “issue” with prior to these other outlets.