My Thoughts. . .
“If it was up to me, and the elders would listen to my suggestions about what we ought to do, you would see growth, harmony, and spirituality like you’ve never seen it before.” Has the devil ever entered your head with such thoughts? Preachers are not above such, nor are elders, deacons, and members. Humans have complained since Eve conversed with the serpent (Genesis 3:1-7). We do the same today without the serpent’s input.
Paul entered a meeting with the Jerusalem elders reporting on the spread of the gospel. Surprisingly he was blindsided with, “They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs” (Acts 21:20-21). It was a lie! That is gossip’s trait.
That same speech today would be, “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but there are a lot of members who are upset with . . .” Why didn’t those elders in Jerusalem confirm whether this report was truth or false? Why spring it on Paul? Why not produce the names of those who originated this lie? Why not tell those gossiping members that they were guilty of sin and needed to repent? Why burden Paul’s shoulders with it when it was their responsibility to correct it? Why? Because we are human, and we would rather take the easiest path so we will not be the troublemaker but someone else will take the fall.
Paul also took the easy way out. Rather than object and expose those who supported that lie, he complied with their solution.
“Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law” (Acts 21:24).
Paul proved the gossip was a lie. Yet, God did not require him to do so. It was the responsibility of those who told the lie to test it rather than swallow it. It was the responsibility of the elders to test the veracity of the gossip, but they refused. Why?
Perhaps the gossip came from those who were not enamored with Paul nor his work. Remember, it was Paul and Silas that debated the Pharisee Christians who believed Gentiles needed to be circumcised in order to be “real” or valid Christians (Acts 15:1, 5). When some refused to follow the decision of the apostles and Jerusalem elders and continued to bind it as gospel, Paul wrote to the Galatian church with this statement,
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:6-9; Acts 15).
Truth does not always make friends nor influence people. Some in the Corinthian church refused to accept Paul as a real apostle (9:1-5). They did not think much of him as a preacher (1 Corinthians 4:10-21; 2 Corinthians 10:10). Perfection has its price and mankind cannot afford nor pay it! So, he substitutes and blames others.
Humans see the alluring fruit dangling before them, and some believe it is their God given right to lead others to their perceived perfection. The problem is that often those perfect solutions end up coming from the wrong source. The result is negative rather than positive, usually leading to hurt feelings, more gossip, strained fellowship, and sadly to division.
Paul asked the Galatian saints, “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16).