One of the great things about teaching in a classical school is the tail does not always wag the dog. Sometimes the class discussion is dictated by what the class is discussing. I’m directing the discussion but I’m letting the students kick it around among them and in their own minds. So this morning when I asked, “OK, what does it look like for a 9th grader in Birmingham in 2011 to have “faith working through love?” I had no idea how they would answer. But once we thought about it, “gossip” became the subject.
We all agreed that a life of faith in the gospel of grace working itself out of our interior life into our exterior life (thank you Thomas Merton) would result in a love for others which would fight against the temptation to gossip.
Easier said than done.
Gossip is about acceptance and security. Those who already know they are accepted and are secure have no need for it. There is no need to degrade others, be malicious and tell the secret and not-so-secret failures of others if you are secure. And not insecure.
But we all had to admit, we are not always like this.
For far too many faith is flat. But it should not be. The object of our faith is full of contours to build faith – a faith working itself out in love. The acceptance we crave -whether you are a teenager or an adult pushing 40 – we already have in the contoured fact of being “in Christ Jesus.” We are accepted because of what Christ did for us on our behalf. And we are accepted by the Sovereign King of the Universe. This is no small thing. Actually it’s bigger than that. We are heirs, Christ is not ashamed to call us brother, we are sons and daughters of the King, God rejoices over us with singing and the banner over our lives is always ‘Love’.
It’s the kind of acceptance – when remembered and marinated in – that can cut away the desire to gossip.
But that’s not all. We are also secure.
I can remember the fist time my brother – nine years my senior – called me ‘insecure.’ Having no idea what such a designation meant at that young age, I protested and denied it making the point all the more. But he was right. So I know the feeling…the need to say something about someone else hoping others will agree and the slight euphoria that wells up from down below because you have grabbed a little security.
But this acceptance we have “in Christ” is secure. Nothing can separate us from it. Our abilities cannot do it. Neither can the opinions of others. Our failures are no match. Our sins cannot even do it. If we have been justified by faith in the gospel of grace…if we are in Christ Jesus, then this acceptance is secure. It is an immovable fact upon which all our hope can be fixed for this life and the next.
And so all this faith – trust in the acceptance and security we have in Christ – is unleashed upon the world in the form of love. A love which reflects the very grace we have received. Our tongues now tamed by the gospel of grace now function to extend the same grace to those we would be tempted to slander, demean, and lie about.
And here’s the cream – the love. Now instead of rejoicing over the foibles and failures of others, we can now- empowered by our faith – realize they are also created in the image of God, sharing in the great problem of sin and needing the same cross.
We can now rejoice over them – echoing the reality of the loving Father rejoicing over us.