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)

Are You a Practical Heretic?

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Mat 25:41-46)

When we think of heresy, we think of facts. When we think of the gospel, we think of doctrinal truth which is so vital to salvation in Christ, that if it is denied it is rightly called heresy. A person, for example, cannot deny the deity of Jesus Christ and still claim to believe the gospel. Facts and details are indeed important.

But notice carefully in the scripture above that these cursed people whom Christ will command to depart from Him on that Great Day to come, end in hell for denying Christ in a hands on, practical way. They gave Him no drink, no welcome, no clothing, no comforting visit. By their actions, or in this case, their lack of actions, they denied Christ and were damned. They were, shall we say, practicing heretics. They literally denied Christ’s very Person by denying His presence and His Body, the Church.

How many practical heretics fill our churches today?

When the victim of any or all kinds of abuse calls for help, you will always find plenty of practical heretics distancing themselves from the nastiness of abuse. They will expound, as we have heard it all so many times before, how the victim needs to patiently endure for Christ. They will minimize the abuse. They will make excuses for the abuser. They will…well, they will do and say just about anything in order to avoid entering into the burden and suffering of the victim. It is fine for the victim to suffer, you see. But victims need to just shut up, suck it up, quit whining, and be thankful. If they won’t, then they just need to go away. This is practical heresy. It is heresy in practice. It is damnable heresy that will result, by our Lord’s own words of warning, in being cast out into eternal fire prepared for such from eternity past. Recite the Apostles’ Creed all they want, it will do them no good. A person can deny the gospel with their actions, or lack of actions, just as much as with the words of their mouth.

Have you ever given thought to this question: “What is the gospel?”? Most professing Christians think that the gospel is a basic set of facts about who Jesus Christ is, about what He has done for us on the cross, about His resurrection, about faith alone that saves, and so on. But if you will study this word “gospel,” in Scripture, you will find that the gospel is much more than this. For example:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Tit 2:11-15)

Clearly by “the grace of God” that has appeared, bringing salvation, Paul means the gospel. He means Christ. And an integral part of that gospel is that it trains all who are in Christ to “renounce ungodliness.” We are to be people zealous for good works. That is what James meant when he wrote so much about “faith without works” being a dead faith. Practical orthodoxy. Practical heresy.

And Jesus had a whole bunch to say (as did the Apostles) about how the gospel commands us to help the oppressed. Therefore, one of the chief good works we are to be zealous for is helping victims. Victims of wicked, oppressive power. And yet, if you have ever been such a victim and have called upon your church or other fellow Christians to help you, what did you so often find? The Good Samaritan, or the priest and Levite? Practical heresy, you see. It won’t go well with such on the Day Jesus comes for His own:

You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; (Mat 15:7-8)

How we Respond to Christ’s People when they are Oppressed Reveals the condition of our Heart

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:41-46)

The Scripture virtually applies itself, right? Think about it. How many of those adjectives fit the Christian who is being terrorized by an abuser? –

  • Hungry
  • Thirsty
  • Stranger (isolated by her abuser)
  • Naked (another sign of economic oppression)
  • Sick (most victims suffer from poor health)
  • In prison (abuse is a prison, and the legal abuse so often effected by the abuser through the courts is a kind of prison)

Who is it that Jesus has a beef with in this Scripture? Answer: “Christians” who blew off such a person’s needs. Notice carefully (read the entire passage to see this more clearly) that Jesus is saying that the acid test that discerns a sheep from a goat is how a person treats one of Christ’s true people when they are in need or distress. This passage is not about the typical social ministries churches so often carry out and even boast of (prison ministries, feeding the poor, etc). Those are actually easy things to do and they earn society’s praise. No. Jesus is speaking here of true Christians who are oppressed for being Christians and of how a person who claims to be a Christian responds to them.

This Scripture would indicate that there are lots and lots and lots of pastors and church leaders and church members who CLAIM to be followers of Jesus Christ but who, indeed, are not. How do we know? Because the typical response of churches to abuse victims is… well, you all know the answer, don’t you?

And therefore, there are many people today who claim the name of Jesus Christ for themselves who ought to be doing some serious soul-searching about the reality of their professed salvation. After all, they are flunking the very test our Lord has set out here.  Pretty sobering, huh?