Thursday, May 02, 2013

Eric Ortlund on Gossip in Proverbs

In the latest issue of Themelios, Eric Ortlund delves into how both foolish and wise people talk in the Proverbs (including gossip) and draws some implications for pastoral ministry.
Foolish Christians of this sort are recognizable in four ways. First, they are gossips. Instead of speaking directly to other Christians, they criticize others behind their backs. Second, they spin things in their favor: impartiality and honesty are not priorities. Third, they will tend not to work toward reconciliation. They will not lay out conditions, after the meeting of which they would be happy to reconcile. There is always another problem or worry or suspicion. Fourth, there is no larger gracious context to their speech. They do not receive and welcome other Christians as Christ has received them (Rom 15:7). This kind of Christian cannot be reasoned with. They will not meet you halfway. Their whole aim is to condemn you to make themselves feel better. Their gracelessness renders them unable to admit wrong and confess it. They are delivered from their sins by sealing others in their sin. They act and speak “unwisely” by walking contrary to how God is reordering all of creation—and the relationships in it—by grace.
He also gets personal:
Part of the burden of Proverbs is to put the son on his guard against foolish and perverse people (Prov 2:12). This involves describing them, as I have above. But another part of the book’s burden is to turn the son away from folly. In light of this, before proceeding further, we must scour our hearts, with the help of the Spirit, for foolish tendencies in ourselves. For instance, if I have something negative to say about another Christian, have I said it to anyone else? While there are a few situations in which one might have to do this (if one is asked, for example, to recommend another Christian for a ministry position), it is extremely easy to point out the faults of other Christians to third parties. This is foolish because Jesus, our wisdom and our great high priest, is interceding for all Christians, speaking the best of them before the Father. Why would we speak any differently?