“If we truly understood and applied the gospel, what would that look like in our relationships within the Body? What is one of the primary evidences of a justified life?”
My professor paused to let us think. It wasn’t hard. Love, I answered silently and waited for him to confirm it.
“Refusal to speak evil against our brothers.”
Oh, right. Wait—what?
“Applying the gospel to everyday life would mean the death of all gossip and unloving speech.” My puzzlement must have shown on my face.
Titus 3:1–2 flashed to mind: “Remind them to be . . . ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”
Unfortunately, no instant flash of brilliance accompanied the verse. I know that our speech reveals our hearts—but do our words about each other really reveal whether or not we understand the gospel?
When you break it down, it clicks. “The gospel” is shorthand for the good news—being made holy before God. As a Christian, the righteousness of Christ is now yours. You stand blameless and forgiven before God.
And here’s the zinger: so is every other Christian you’ve come into contact with.
Don’t I deny Christ’s death, then, with every unloving word I speak against another Christian, whether it’s to his face or behind his back?
The believers who test our patience are saved by what Jesus did on the cross, just like we are. Torrential grace overpowers all their daily sins. These people have been stamped “righteous” by the same God whose presence compels the seraphim to cry “holy, holy, holy” day and night. Christ came—grace incarnate—and spent His life for their eternal gain, to say to them, “I remember your sins no more.”
When I deeply believe this—when I genuinely see that Jesus already took the punishment for their sins and gave them His forgiveness—how can I possibly dare to resurrect those same sins for a rehash?
Against that simple gospel backdrop, bringing up a brother’s past offense sounds sickening. I cannot claim to be in sync with the gospel and simultaneously air another believer’s sins, even in the simplest passing comment. Honesty and accuracy have no bearing here. Unless I’m deliberately stirring my listener “to love and good deeds” through a humble, sober warning against the deceitfulness of sin, my words only feed self-righteousness and defame the grace of Christ. Rehashing a brother or sister’s sin in the act of gossip ignores the gospel of grace.
You can hear the intensity of passion permeating Paul’s words in Romans 8:33–34: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” That’s it. God has justified.
Don’t mistake me; loving confrontation still has an important place. We aren’t called to ignore the reality of each other’s sin. We’re simply called to forgive as our heavenly Father forgives and act like we’re part of a holy Body . . . because we are.
- When you talk about the sins of your Christian friends in an unloving way behind their backs, what are you communicating about their identity? Are you subtly denying Jesus’ saving work for them?
- Have you ever shared personal “prayer requests” about a Christian friend as a godly cover-up for gossip? (Here’s a hint: if talking about it made you feel more godly than your friend, it was probably gossip.)
- Is it possible for you to be humble—grateful for God’s immense forgiveness to you—and gossipy at the same time? Why or why not?