Advent Devotional 12/6: Rejecting Gossip and Loving Deeply
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
(1 Peter 4:8, NIV)
Peter presents a vision for Christians to love one another deeply. Many of us settle for loving one another shallowly, without much commitment or care. We might even dismiss one another or hold a grudge against those who offend us in the church.
It's easy to love lovable people. It's difficult to love sinners. And yet, that is what we are. The church is a community of sinners being transformed into saints. Along the way, we are bound to sin against one another and be sinned against.
How should we respond when that happens?
Peter says that love covers over a multitude of sins. This does not mean that we cover up wrongdoing in the church. There is a Biblical protocol for addressing sin in the church that starts with a direct and private handling of offense, only widening the scope of the matter if the offender refuses to repent.
But to cover over sin means to deal gently and graciously with offenders with the goal of forgiveness and restoration. It comes from a willingness to continue to be in loving community with people who sometimes fail to live up to God's standard of righteousness. Repentance and forgiveness cover over sin so they are no longer in view. In this way, we can have genuine love and affection for each other.
An unhealthy response to sin would be to amplify it through gossip. We might spread the word about the sin to as many people as will listen, and address it only when there is some kind of fallout, when it is most likely too late. Or we might refuse to address it, holding onto the offense until it becomes a grudge that poisons the relationship.
One important, concrete thing that we can do to become a community of deep love and grace is to refuse to gossip about one another. Gossip spreads a bad report about a person. It amplifies sin and offense. We must refuse to participate in this, either to spread it or to listen to it.
Scripture teaches, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” (Proverbs 17:9, NIV).
We might think gossip is harmless. We might do it habitually and unconsciously, pointing out things we don't like in others. But gossip separates close friends and destroys fellowship.
Let gossip die when it reaches us. And let it never begin with us. Let us be mindful of how we talk about one another. If we are offended, let us have the courage to address the offense directly and privately, with the goal of forgiveness and restoration.
Patient and gracious God, thank you for covering over the multitude of our own sins. You don't treat us according to our sins, but according to your great mercy.
We confess that we who have received such a great mercy are often reluctant to show that same mercy to others. We repent if we have spoken of one another harshly or judged one another critically.
Teach us how to address sin and offense in a healthy way. Eradicate bad habits and gossip from our community. Give us the love and courage we need to address offense privately and directly with people. Help us to think well of one another. Help us to be willing to give one another second and third chances, and as many as are necessary to bring us to repentance and a knowledge of the truth. Drive out from our community the spirit of offense and judgment; the spirit of pride and self-righteousness. Let there be the freedom and joy of being known and loved. Let deep acceptance be the experience of everyone who is willing to be a part of Kardia in good faith.
This is so difficult, Father. We need a supernatural, divine love to be able to do it. But that is exactly what you have given us in Jesus Christ. We pray that in the coming months, you would make us a community that genuinely enjoys one another, roots for one another, and spurs one another on to greater love and good deeds.
In Jesus' name, Amen.