“Let’s pray first!” I overheard the two sitting at the next table at my favorite coffee shop, before they sipped their coffees and nibbled at their bizcochos. I smiled, pleased to hear people stopping to pray in a public place.
My smile was soon to fade.
- So they bowed their heads.
- And prayed.
- And as soon as they finished, launched right into an angry running attack on a person who wasn’t present. The target was another church member who was engaged in some sort of ministry with them.
- And kept it up for a good 45 minutes.
Now, I promise, I was trying hard not to eavesdrop, but they were very passionate, and I didn’t want to give up my comfy chair just to avoid hearing them. And everyone else within a few feet would hear the same message: “church…anger…church…frustration….church….accusation.”
I have just spent some time in Romans, and 1:29-31 seemed relevant here – I have marked the sins that this pair may have been committing.
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. [And if they were not telling the strict truth about their “frenemy,” one could tack deceit on to the list]
And if we do what we’re supposed to – read the Bible in its context – the horror keeps piling up: this list is Paul unpacking what he meant by “God gave them over to a depraved mind” (Rom 1:28).
Paul goes on in Romans 12-13 to show how Christians ought to treat one another:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves…Live in harmony with one another. (Romans 12:9-10, 16)
All commands can be “summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. (Rom 13:9-10)
So here they are, gossip and slander blended in with the grossest sins Paul can think of. Gossip is not “networking,” it’s wickedness.
Nevertheless: As unappetizing as their rapid-fire attack was, I cannot stand in judgment on them. In fact, what brought me up short was this thought: “I’m sure I have done the same, and will do it in the future – is this really how I sound?”
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS on Romans 1:
- Plenty of evangelicals today read Romans 1:18-31 and deduce from it that “Paul’s main meaning is that homosexuality is evil and offends God!” Paul would almost certainly have shaken his head in disbelief and told us, “My main meaning was that all kinds of sins, be they gross or polite, are evil and offend God.”
- Along that same line: is the NIV, which I used above, a “gay” Bible? Not at all. And misrepresenting its translators, especially based on the fifth-hand information that is typically found in those ominous YouTube videos, is also a sin. I challenge anyone who thinks that the NIV is “loose” on homosexual sin to look it up first-hand: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+1&version=NIV. See also my article here, https://openoureyeslord.com/2012/04/11/is-the-niv-2011-a-satanic-homosexual-pc-bible/
- As a side note, 1:29-31 take the form of a “vice list”, as is the “fruit of the Spirit” list in Gal 5.
- The reader is invited to look at my brief commentary on Romans: https://openoureyeslord.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/shogren_romans-1-8-commentary.pdf
“Gossip, anyone?” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica