“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
In 1690, the colonies of New France and Massachusetts Bay were in a battle for Quebec, along the Saint Lawrence River. The British contingent was led by Sir William Phips, who anchored his ships outside of Quebec. Contrary to the battle plan, Phips started bombarding the city far too soon. More than that, he started shooting at some very unusual targets.
Phips saw the statues of saints adorning the roof of Quebec’s Roman Catholic cathedral, and he ordered his men to take aim at them, knocking the saints to the ground. Within a day, Phips’ cannon batteries had run out of most of their ammunition, in part because he had spent some of it shooting at the saints.
Another term for “shooting at the saints” is “gossip.” St. Augustine is said to have had a motto printed on the wall of his dining room: “He who speaks an evil word of an absent man or woman is not welcome at this table.”
Jesus had a great way of handling gossip – keep disagreements between two people.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.”
Only when the other person doesn’t listen to you are you supposed to involve another person, and even then, it’s between you and the other person. The friend goes along just to help resolve things. And if that doesn’t work, you still don’t get to gossip. You’re supposed to have leaders in the church help you find a resolution. Honestly, it probably won’t ever get that far if you just try to solve things in Christian love between two people.
When we handle it any other way, and especially when we talk behind someone else’s back, we only make the situation worse, and we make things harder to resolve. As Christians, we have a responsibility to love and protect our brothers and sisters in Christ, and never to undermine them with our words.
Reflection copyright © 2017 Doug DeBolt.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.