The Church's Pyromania

Pyromania is “an obsessive desire to set fire to things.”  Obviously, the condition is a bit destructive.  And though you may never have considered putting a match to our building, let me propose the possibility that each one of us may have this flammable tendency when it comes to church.  I’m thinking of what the apostle James had to say (James 3.4-9):

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.

Our building is where we meet.  The church is the “we.”  The church is the people who trust in and love Jesus and meet together to worship Him.   We’ve never had any problems with regular building destruction.  But the pyromania by the people and toward the people is always lurking.  If we’re honest we have to admit that we are often inclined to “light each other up” with the words that we say about one another to one another.  Gossip – this is church’s pyromania.  And of course we never set our brothers and sister ablaze to their face – we wouldn’t want them to know the cause of the strange warmth they’re feeling around them.  We set them on fire by “mentioning,” “conversing,” or “sharing” something negative about them to someone else.

 This easiest of sins is a great and devastating evil. It kills relationships, and we’re each somewhat to blame for 1) initiating it and 2) hosting it. 

The first thing to realize is that God sees gossip as wicked. Consider these connected selections from Romans 1:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men …

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God…

Right there in the midst of the morass of depravity and rebellion against God, just one word away from “haters of God”, is the word gossips.  Gossip is an easy sin, but it is not a small sin. What is gossip?  Try this definition on for size:

Gossip is any inappropriate sharing of information that would cast someone in a negative light.

Gossip is awful for many reasons.  Here are six: 

1. Gossip is immature.

O how the long-time church-goers can be most excellent at the eloquent BBQ-ing of their own brothers and sisters.  Those who would see themselves as theologically mature can gossip as easy as breathing.  The poison comes out unfiltered and undisciplined, with no thought to God’s direct teaching on the matter:

Ephesians 4.29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

May God enable our tongues’ discipline and maturity.

2. Gossip is selfish.

Sometimes we gossip for a sense of intimacy.  Sharing juicy details about someone else can make our conversation more interesting.  Sometimes we gossip for status.  We enjoy feeling important enough to be privy to sensitive information.  Sometimes we gossip for revenge.  We can get back at the hurt someone has caused us by slandering them to others.  Sometimes we gossip for our insecurity.  It makes us feel better about ourselves to advertise the flaws in others.  Sometimes we gossip to feel wise, when the info presented gives us opportunity for an “I told you so” moment. 

In any case, it is all about “me.”  The selfishness of gossip means two things: 1) it is unloving, and 2) it is prideful.  That’s pretty gnarly when you consider God’s Word:

Proverbs 16.Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
 be assured, he will not go unpunished.

1 John 3.14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

3. Gossip is unfair.

When person A tells person B about person C, person C is guilty without trial.  He never has a chance to know the accusations against him, apologize for them, or explain them.  He’s just guilty.  That’s unfair.

4. Gossip is untrue.

In the same way, gossip is distinctly one-sided.  The whole story is never known.  Therefore the gossip is untrue. As the Proverb (18.17) reads, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

5. Gossip destroys relationships.

Relationships are so important to the church.  They are our vehicles for living out the gospel and glorifying God.  Gossip sets fire to the church because it destroys relationships.  Sadly, we must realize that a lot of gossip “gets around.”  That is its nature.  People hear what you say.  And so often, when a person hears what’s gone around the horn about them, they have no opportunity to respond or apologize with out compromising others.  So the ugly awkwardness is burning away at everyone and relationships are destroyed, with no clear path towards healing.

6. Gossip is cowardly.

If we were truly mature, we would talk with the person with whom we have the problem.  Period.  As Jesus taught in Matthew 18, if you have something against someone, go to them first.  You don’t have any right to spread the news ‘till you’ve talked with the source.  But we are often too afraid to do what is right…and our own flaws are more likely to be exposed when we talk out the problem.

Lets Be Gossip Killers

Here are a few principles that can help us “live lives worthy of the gospel” in regards to gossip.

  1. If you have a problem with someone, try to overlook it and forgive.  Let’s be humble and give grace!  Consider Jesus’ humility and grace in Philippians 2 (1-11).
  2. If you need to talk about it, talk first with the one with whom you have the problem and work for reconciliation.
  3. If someone comes to you with juicy info, apply Ephesians 4.29 (below).  If the message isn’t helpful or if that person has not first spoken to the one with whom they have a problem, refuse to listen to their gossip and encourage them to do what is right.

For the glory of God and our joy, let’s put the fires out with the self-control and grace of God.

Ephesians 4.29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.


Anonymous said...

These are great words of wisdom. Rarely do you hear words like this from one someone of your youth! You are a blessing to the body. Stay strong and wise my friend!

kendra said...

matt ford...

I would love to hear you preach some time. Thanks for drawing out the points of gossip, an all too familiar thing in every life. The key verse for my devos this week is Eph 4:29. Sweet. come to Hebron next time you're in PA.

Kendra Martin