This year our church is focusing on Living Life Together. We want to be a place where it easy for men and women to feel and be connected. Many people have told me how much they appreciate this emphasis. While many of us are moving out of our comfort zones to develop broader and deeper relationships with people, the reports I am regularly receiving is that the effort is worth it. We are becoming more of the “household of God” (1 Timothy 3:15) that the Lord designed and desires us to be.
A Natural Development With a Possible Danger
Invariably as relationships deepen, men and women are more willing to open up and talk about their questions and struggles. Such conversations can be priceless as people develop a fresh level of trust and authenticity. Opportunities for meaningful spiritual growth multiply tremendously in the context of comfortable friendship.
Like most things in life, authentic conversations can turn sinister. The enemy of our souls loves to spoil, twist, and destroy the good things God has given. One way this can occur is when a married person begins sharing all the failures of his/her spouse when that person is not present. Such conversations often degenerate into sinful gossip, an activity that is strongly condemned in God’s Word. Gossip occurs when a person is talking behind someones back to an individual who is not a part of the problem or the solution.
When People Gossip to You
Let’s make it practical. Suppose you are having coffee with a new friend who begins pouring out all of her gripes and complaints about her husband (feel free to change genders if necessary). What are some possible responses?
1. Are you telling me this because you want to make your husband look bad, or because you sincerely want to talk about how God can use these challenges to help you become more like Christ?
2. Have you lovingly spoken to your husband about your concerns?
3. How have you used your husband’s perceived failures as a means to draw you closer to Jesus?
4. Do you spend the majority of your time thinking about your husband’s shortcomings, or your own (Matthew 7:3)?
5. Have you considered seeking biblical counseling from our church for both you and your spouse? Would this story sound different after both of you had an opportunity to speak about what is occurring? (Proverbs 18:17)
What to Do in Cases of Abuse
With the previous suggestions, I am not talking about situations where there is some form of spousal abuse occurring. Some husbands (and wives, believe it or not) attempt to intimidate their mate into silence. If that is the case, the offended spouse should bring the concerns to the elders of the church who are responsible to deal with such violations of God’s Word with speed, strength, and courage. The reason that is not gossip is because the elders should be involved in such problems since they have been ordained by God to watch over the souls of the members of the church (Hebrews 13:17).
A Fundamental Purpose
In the New Testament, Titus was called by God to pastor a church on the isle of Crete. The apostle Paul knew this was a challenging ministry assignment, and admitted as much when he wrote, “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said; ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true.”
What is fascinating is that Paul saw that as a marvelous opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ to stand out from their culture. The book of Titus is filled with practical truth about how strong marriages and families can be established even with people who came out of such ungodly backgrounds and were undoubtedly struggling with all sorts of wrong relational habits. At a crucial point in the discussion, Paul told Titus:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored (Titus 2:3-5).
What if It’s You?
Consider the conversations you have had with people who are married. Are you involved in sinful gossip? If so, quickly repent and ask forgiveness of God and the person with whom you were communicating. Then make a commitment that your conversations with married people will be focused on helping them love their spouses in spite of perceived failures, or to get help from a biblical counselor who can sit down with both parties and find balanced, biblical solutions for the glory of God.