Once upon a time, there were some ignorant religious people, and Jesus fought them off with tough love. He called them snakes, and then he asked them, “How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).
Hidden sin is like an ulcer. It rips you apart on the inside, but it’s all good because you can take some drugs and put on a smile and feel fine and dandy. You might even think that you solved the problem. But really, you’re just preventing yourself from consciously recognizing that there’s a problem, and you might actually be making the problem worse.
This is why simply putting a filter between our hearts and mouths, and thinking before we speak, doesn’t solve the problem. If you’re thinking something horrible and you catch yourself before you spit it out, good job — you protected your reputation. But you missed a spot — right there, on your heart.
If you have a problem with sin, it’s not enough to just stop the thought before it becomes action. You need to change the way you think. The only problem is that you can’t. You don’t understand the complicated wiring of your brain that has caused you to think in a certain way. You have certain needs that you’re trying to meet through this sin. You have motives such as habit or fear that cause you to keep going back. You believe things about yourself that keep you from moving on, and that make you believe that it’s just who you are or it’s just what you do.
It’s the same for gossip. Gossip is a sin that actually points to a sinful thought pattern. If you gossip, you may have a problem with idleness or self-esteem. To fill up your time and your self-concept, gossip enables you to feed off of dwelling on others’ issues — not in an attempt to solve them, but instead to comfort yourself or to make yourself feel justified in being imperfect. You tell others about these problems in order to avoid confrontation. Maybe you’re afraid you’re wrong, or maybe it’s just easier to talk about someone than to talk to them. (I guess that means you can even gossip to God.) But this avoidance only perpetuates their issues, because you’re afraid that if someone becomes aware of them, they’ll become a better person, and they will have one-upped you.
These are some of the buds I’ve seen growing off of the root of gossip. But it’s much more complicated than this, and there are deeper reasons behind gossip that I didn’t mention.
The bottom line is that sin begins in the heart. But we can’t even see our own hearts, much less another person’s heart. Trying to fix your own heart is like trying to fix a car, in the dark, without having read the manual, knowing only what sound it makes, but not what is actually broken, and not having the replacement parts — oh, and you’re also underwater.
It won’t just take filters or rules or accountability or reading books to fix our hearts. It takes God.
Before you attempt to do anything about your sin, repent.
True repentance is not saying, “I’m sorry, God, I’ll try better next time.” It’s saying, “I’m so messed up that I’ll never be better, and I’ll probably just get worse as time goes on, unless you do something to help me right now.” All of your efforts to abolish evil in your heart will be futile. But that’s why Jesus died on the cross. But what does that have to do with anything?
The only guy strong enough to separate the hopeless, evil parts of us from the redeemable, good parts of us is the guy who created everything in existence and who can do what He wants with it. The Jaws of Life just won’t do it. Sin is too entwined and entangled into our hearts. But when we offer our hearts to God, He works on them. On the cross, God took the sin, detached it from our hearts, and attached it to himself. Then he took it away from your heart and into the junkyard where it belongs. Then he left the junkyard and sat down in his place so he could let you go for a test run now that your heart is fixed. And now you can start up again and go merrily on your way with the complete assurance that the problem has been fully taken care of.
It’s a pretty involved process. That’s why you hire a professional.
It’s called repentance, and it takes two.
This week was about removing gossip in the heart. The next post will talk about what to replace it with.