Sunday, February 22, 2009

Where the Feather Blows


In medieval days, the story goes, a man went to his priest to confess sin and seek absolution. He confessed the sin of gossip, of spreading a rumor, of slandering another man. He wanted to atone for his sin. The priest told him to take feathers and place them by the doors of every person he had shared the gossip with and then return. The man completed his assignment, spreading the feathers wherever he had spread the rumor. He returned to the priest. The priest gave him another job. “Go and pick up every feather you placed.” The man shook his head. “The feathers have scattered throughout the town. I could never find them all.” The priest nodded his head. “It is the same way with gossip.”

We view sin differently than God does. We see big sins and little sins. Big sins – adultery, murder, homosexuality, theft – are the ones we generally do no commit. Little sins – gossip, complaining, little white lies – these are the ones we all commit, so they must not be such a big deal, right? God does not see it that way.

James says that the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity, set on fire by hell. It is a small body part, but does great evil. Christian maturity is the ability to control the tongue. Proverbs reveals to us the devastating effects of little sins like gossip. Proverbs 17:9 says, “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.”

American culture honors the person who tells everyone just exactly what he thinks. You have to vent your feelings, not suppress them. God’s Word begs to differ. The person who overlooks an offense, who forgives the offender, promotes love and harmony. The one who repeats the matter, who spreads the feathers, causes division and disunity.

If Christians had Spirit-empowered control of our tongues, there would be no division in the church. Think of every church conflict you have ever seen. When you dig through the rubble and devastation, you will find the same explosive material at ground zero. Gossip. Someone did not control their tongue. Someone got on the phone and “shared” their disapproval, probably in the form of a prayer request. Someone exercised their right to air their opinion about things.

And these dear but dangerous saints had no idea that their loose lips would sink the ship of unity in the body of Christ. “Without gossip the fire goes out,” promised Solomon.

If only we could apply one simple rule. I will not talk about someone to another until I have first talked to God, then to that person. If you are offended, upset, angry or injured, talk to God about it, not other people. He is the one who can heal the wound. If you need to, talk to the other person directly in attempt to bring healing and unity.

Until you have talked to God, and to the person you are upset with, you have no right to talk about that person to anyone else. When you do, you fuel the fires of division in God’s church, helping Satan in his efforts to destroy God’s church.

I know you don’t want to do that.

2 comments:

Eric M Schumacher said...

Have you seen the movie "Doubt"?

There is a great reenactment of this in the film. (Actually, the whole film is an excellent lesson on this.)

Dave Miller said...

I've never seen that movie. I'll have to check it out.