Getting “Gossip” Wrong Enables the Wicked

I received a copy of a small book written by Pastor Marc J. Grimaldi entitled Gossip: The Church Killer. It included a letter from Pastor Grimaldi which indicated he had sent out a copy of his book to pastors such as myself. He said in the letter:

For the ten years that I have served in the gospel ministry, I have found gossip to be one of the deadliest sins, which eats away at the life of Christ’s church. It is amazing to see how a single conversation even, can bring a wave of disruption, with many hearts being infected by the spread of gossip, leading to major problems in the local church. Sadly, gossip is so underrated and precautions must be taken to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, by inoculating our church members with a thorough understanding of the nature and danger of gossip….It is my hope that this short work will be a valuable tool for bringing the awareness of the danger of gossip to the local church, so that we might consciously seek to put this venomous asp to death, counteracting it with words that actually build up the body, rather than tear it down.

Now, I have no reason to believe that Pastor Grimaldi’s goal here is anything but what he has stated — to protect the church. However, most all of our readers will agree that abusers absolutely love to accuse their victims of gossip if the victims tell anyone about the evils being done to them. And pastors and church members often do the same when an abuse victim comes forward to expose the evil and ask for help. “You are gossiping. Go home and respect your spouse.”

So my radar goes up when this topic of gossip comes up.  Listen now as Pastor Grimaldi writes on the subject –

Pastor Stewart arrived home and sat at the dining room table next to his wife. It was obvious to Mrs. Steward that something was wrong because the good reverend was clearly aloof and somewhat downcast. Earlier in the day, Mrs. Stewart knew that her husband was preparing to have a difficult meeting with a man who had never been overly supportive of his ministry. Well, apparently, something had happened at that meeting that had discouraged the pastor in some way. It was obvious that things did not go well, so Mrs. Stewart asked, ‘How’d it go?’

Then Pastor Stewart poured out his heart to his wife and explained all that had happened at the meeting. He had shared with her all of the horrible things that Mr. Evans (the man) had said to and about him at the meeting.There are two very significant things related to this particular story. First, it closely resembles a very real life situation that has actually taken place. I know this because I am the pastor in this story….Second, I learned a very important lesson on that occasion: pastors have to be very careful when speaking to their wives about matters related to the church.

I wanted to begin this chapter addressing pastors first, so that all who read this book will clearly understand that gossip is a serious and dangerous matter against which all people must be on guard. This is not just for the layman. This is for all Christians….Well then, back to the story.

What is so bad about what this pastor has done in the above scenario? Doesn’t a pastor have the right to at least confide in his own wife with respect to the hardships he faces in the ministry? Furthermore, pastor or not, aren’t the two ‘one flesh’ if they are married, giving them the right to share these kinds of things with each other? Well, here’s the problem. By the grace of God, having watch over his own heart (which is hard enough), the pastor can wrestle through such pain and hurt on his own (or with the help of someone who does not know Mr. Evans) and come back to the place in Christ, where love and compassion can still be shown to Mr. Evans. The pastor has no choice but to work through this matter in love because he has been directly involved in the controversy.

However, by speaking to his wife, he has now influenced another heart, a heart that would naturally (and especially) be sensitive to the pastor, who happens to be her husband.What exactly has Pastor Stewart done by telling his wife all of the (true) details about what had happened during his meeting with Mr. Evans? He has created a battle within his own wife; a very selfish, careless, and inconsiderate thing to do (though perhaps unintentional). Even if Pastor Stewart works this all out and finds rest and grace in Christ, is it right to automatically assume that Mrs. Stewart will do the same? What will happen in the heart of Mrs. Stewart the next time she faces Mr. Evans at church and he swings by her with a smile and a ‘hello’? If Pastor Stewart had just worked this out on his own, he could have spared his wife such potential hardship, hurt, and possible bitterness. Also, what if Mrs. Stewart, out of her own hurt, opens up to someone else, perhaps a close friend or her parents? You see, the potential for a schism can be fostered by the lack of discretion used on the part of an ailing pastor.

What we have set before us here in his book is a formula that most surely will enable and empower evil in its deception and secrecy and keep the victims of evil in bondage indefinitely.

  • What message will certainly come across to any abuse victims in the pew when the pastor preaches these things from his pulpit? I can tell you. “If you are being abused at home by your husband, you need to rely on the grace of God and prayer to see you through it and you must not tell anyone about it. If you do, you are guilty of gossip.” Pastor Grimaldi may not intend that result, but I can tell you absolutely that is precisely what will be communicated to these victims.
  • Pastor Grimaldi fears “schism.” Church splits and divisions. His solution? Keep Mr. Evans’ evil (and that is most certainly what it is, evil) quiet. Zip your lip about what this wicked man has been doing for a long, long time. But schism needs to occur in such a church! Mr. Evans and his allies need to be expelled.
  • Victims of evil will certainly be falsely guilted by this concept of gossip. What will be communicated to them is “you are the real problem, not your abuser. Your attitude is the issue here. You must patiently and silently endure.” And the wickedness will continue as the abuser is strongly enabled by all this.
  • Pastor Grimaldi’s “no gossip” formula here is actually going to CAUSE schism. First of all, he is going to experience schism in his own marriage. “What’s wrong, dear? You seem so downcast?” “Nothing.” He becomes a husband keeping secrets from his wife, the very one who is given him by God to be his ezer – his warrior helper. And then the wrong kind of schism in the church will occur. The righteous will be eventually driven out.
  • Mr. Evans is a classic factious and divisive man. Such a person is to be warned, then put out of the church and the church INFORMED about his wickedness in detail with the scriptural instruction that we are not to have anything to do with such a man. See 1 Cor 5, plus these two overlooked verses in Titus:
  • As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)
  • This kind of  teaching is going to cause pastors (and Christians victimized by evil) to be suckered in by a classic tactic of the enemy’s agents. Isolation and secrecy. Notice that Mr. Evans wanted to meet with the pastor privately. The pastor foolishly agreed (as I have foolishly done so myself before), knowing that this man habitually worked to discourage him. The pastor allowed him to do it again and the pastor must tell no one? That is classic abuser enablement. It is not being wise as a serpent about evil.

There is a second thread of teaching in this book that is problematic as well. Not only will it enable abusers and cause further oppression of victims, but it really sets forth a false notion of just who a Christian is and what a real church is. Christians, says Pastor Grimaldi, must be admonished not to gossip. He says that if there is a church where gossip is rampant, then the church members need to be reminded that gossip is the product of a depraved mind. Yes, it is. But it is not the product of the Christian mind. The Christian is a new creation. The Christian’s mind is not depraved. If there is a “church” that claims to be the body of Christ and yet it is characterized by the sins of a depraved mind, then absolutely there is going to be gossip! But that gossip (reviling) is being done by the wicked who apparently either dominate that church or control it significantly. The solution? Certainly not to be silent about evil, but to announce it from the rooftops so that all will hear and all will know and the wicked will flee because the light of Christ’s truth is too much for them to bear.

Mr. Evans does not need silence. Mr. Evans needs to be called on the carpet before the entire church and short of genuine repentance, put out of the church so that there might be peace. Pastor Grimaldi, I know “Mr. Evans.” I have met people of his spirit many, many times. I have been duped by them and I have been sent into deep despair and discouragement by their evil workings. But I am free of them. I have grown wise about them. I hope the same for you, but I can assure you that the path you are recommending in this book is not the way of wisdom. It will only strengthen the Mr. Evans types in our churches and it will tell his victims that the Lord commands us to be silent about his evil.

Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. (2 Timothy 4:14-15)

To Discern Good from Evil, You Must be Born Again

[The following is excerpted from July 6, 2014 sermon  at Christ Reformation Church. You may listen to or read the entire sermon at sermonaudio.com/crc]

Faith is the means by which we overcome the world, by which we resolve to not love the world, by which we have eyes to see that the world is indeed passing away, that the Day of the Lord is coming, and by which we do the will of God.  This is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith – because it is by faith that we are justified in Christ. By faith we discern His Word from the lies of the evil one. By faith we follow Him.

Let’s think our way through Paul’s words here in 1 Thes 5:19-22  –

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

  • Do not quench the Spirit.  Now normally we think that this means we should not sin and grieve the Holy Spirit, which certainly is true. However, in this context I suggest that not quenching the Spirit is directly connected with the recognition of and reception of the Word of God as truth and the rejection of lies by which the enemy tries to deceive us.  In other words, as you will be hearing in the Sunday School study of Acts, not quenching the Spirit means receiving God’s Word as God’s Word and rejecting man’s word as nothing but man’s word.
  • Do not despise prophecies.  It is the Spirit, you see, by whom the Lord gives prophecies – ie, gives us His Word. The Spirit is the One who inspired and inerrantly directed the human authors of Scripture. Quenching the Spirit is to reject the Spirit’s word (and in our day, that means Scripture) and embrace falsehood that claims to be from God.  Despising prophecy, that is to say, despising God’s Word is to quench the ministry of the Spirit.
  • Test everything. Hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.  Do you see how this flows?  Not quenching the Spirit, not despising the Spirit’s Word, is effected then by testing everything. That is to say, everything that comes our way claiming to be of and from God. We must be able to discern good from evil, hold to the good, and reject the evil.

And I am suggesting to you that what this requires is this gift given us by God called faith.  It is by faith that we recognize God’s Word for what it is and by which we reject falsehoods. Where this faith is absent, Christ is absent. Eyes remain blinded and ears stopped.

Isaiah 6:8-10  And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”  (9)  And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’  (10)  Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”Isaiah 29:10-14  For the LORD has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes (the prophets), and covered your heads (the seers).  (11)  And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.”  (12)  And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”  (13)  And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,  (14)  therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”

No eyes and ears of faith, you see. Thus no discernment, and thus the embracing of commandments taught by men and a rejection of the Word of God.  And all of this, remember, by a people who were called God’s people. People who claimed to worship him. Who “honored” Him with their mouths. Religious people. The “Christians” of that day.  But there was no faith in them, thus no life in them, no obedience to the Lord.

I must conclude that an absence of this faith, and thus an absence of justification before God, a void of the regeneration of hearts, is largely why the visible church is in the sad condition it is in today. And the reason why abuse victims are given such sore treatment while the wicked remain enabled and justified by their churches. Because by faith, Noah (see Hebrews 11) “saw” the flood that was to come and built the ark. By this faith Abraham packed it up, left his home country, and set out to a place he had never seen. Noah and Abraham believed God. They had the eyes and ears of faith.

By faith we discern God’s Word from man’s counterfeit religion and tradition. By faith we sort out good from evil, clinging to the former and rejecting the latter. Faith – the real article that is a gift of God to every single one of His people – enables these abilities in us. By this faith, as described in the London Confession of Faith –

… the Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word for the authority of God himself, and also apprehends an excellency therein above all other writings and all things in the world, as it bears forth the glory of God in his attributes, the excellency of Christ in his nature and offices, and the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit in his workings and operations: and so is enabled to cast his soul upon the truth consequently believed; and also acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come; but the principle acts of saving faith have immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receiving, and resting upon him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

Therefore I recommend to you that wherever you see a void of discernment between good and evil, where the wicked are enabled and the oppressed are rejected, you will also see an inability to recognize God’s Word and Truth and instead an embracing of man-made religious traditions which parade as God’s Word. You will have disobedience to Christ’s commands, a lack of fear at His threatenings, and a disbelief in His promises.

Are these not the very things we are seeing in so many, many local churches today? A vacuum of faith.

If you are a Christian, then this faith IS in you. By it the Holy Spirit enables you to recognize Christ’s voice as He speaks to His sheep (John 10) and to reject the voice of a counterfeit stranger. By faith, we understand God’s word to be real wisdom and we reject the “wisdom” of this world as foolishness. By faith we discern the spirits (1 John 4:1) to see if they are from God or not. And it is this faith operating in us that will set us apart from those “sheep” who do not have it. Ultimately, this is the reason so many of us have found ourselves walking a different path than the religious crowd around us.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

“You Meant it for Evil, But….”

Gen 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

These words of course were spoken by Joseph to his brothers who had abused him so terribly. The brothers – a very rare case – came to him in what appears to be genuine repentance. But even if they had not, this particular part of Joseph’s words to them would apply. “You meant it for evil…but God meant it for good.”

I think that at least at the other end of abuse, especially when we have been enabled to get out of the abuser’s evil control, and we look back, we can see this. I was reviled by many “fine Christians” down through the years and what they did (NONE of them have ever repented) they will give account for to God. But I also know that in these years of misery I was in school. I suppose we can also think of Moses out there for 40 years in the desert thinking that his usefulness for the Lord was done and kaput! In fact, it was just beginning!

Evil people are evil. God’s wrath is upon them. But He uses them in our lives to wake us up to evil and its tactics so that we can expose it and help others and continue to stay free of it ourselves. “Thanks,” abusers. Your evil has turned to my good.