Guess Who Relapsed . . .
Be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. Titus 2:3
If I confessed that I once went to church under the influence of chemicals, it may not surprise you, but it might offend you. If I told you that I did it last Sunday, you should probably be more alarmed. If though, I confessed to recently gossiping about somebody we both know, you would be less upset. You might even be interested. Slander and gossip are not as big of a deal as addiction. In fact, gossip is often acceptable in church.
I am not going to suggest that all sin is the same in practical consequence. Various sins have varying effects. If I say a harsh thing to my wife, it has very different consequences than if I use drugs. In today’s passage though, Paul included slander in the same sentence as addiction in his list of destructive behaviors. Why?
Sin, by definition turns me away from God, which is the most significant consequence, even if no one else sees it. I measure sin though, by its obvious, practical effects. If it does not cause any obvious harm . . .
Some sins look fairly innocent, without any obvious consequence. Thus, particular sins may be ignored in church (pride, vanity) and others may even be encouraged under the guise of a religious excuse. We share prayer requests with little intent of ever praying. We openly discuss horrible details about others without ever participating in any solution. We are obsessed with the sordid details of other’s lives when we should be working on our own. Make no mistake, gossip can become an addiction of the flesh, turning us from God as surely as drugs.
If I told a you a scandalous story about someone we both know, Guess who relapsed! But neither of us have any intention of helping that person, then we are both just participating in malicious gossip at best, and slander at worst (if it is not true). Paul said this is sin, mentioning it in the same breath as the addictive behavior itself.