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Read Proverbs 6:16-19
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.” (Matthew 12:25 NLT)
Do you remember high school? I remember when I went to freshman orientation, we were all told that we could expect that high school would be the best four years of our lives. Now, that is some promise that comes with a whole host of different expectations depending on who the person with those expectations is. For me, I expected that the best four years of my life would be years in which I was accepted for who I was, that I was treated with respect and love, and that the segregation that existed between the popular groups and the outcasts would cease to exist. Unfortunately, high school did not deliver; rather, it became the opposite of the best four years of my life.
15 Ailments of the Church #14: Cliques. In the fourteenth of Pope Francis I’s 15 Ailments of the Church, he writes that one of the ailments is that Christians tend to “form ‘closed circles’ that seek to be stronger than the whole.” These “closed groups” are what are more commonly known as cliques and they are the bane of the church. While Francis is addressing the forming of such groups within the church, I want to bring it to the macrocosom for a moment. The reality is that the church, as a whole, has become a clique. Those who are within the “closed group” of the church are “saved”, “worthy”, “righteous”, “holy”, “pious”, etc. Every one outside of the church are considered “lost”, “unsaved”, “unholy”, “unrighteous”, “evil”, “sinful”, “misguided”, “damned”, etc. This sort of “us” versus “them” outlook at the world is exactly the opposite outlook that Jesus had in his life and in his ministry.
Cliques are a perversion of the community God has created us to form and play a part in. The Kingdom of God is an all-inclusive community that welcomes all people regardless of who they are, where they come from, what they look like, what they do or don’t believe, etc. The only ones excluded from this holy community are the ones who choose to exclude themselves. Cliques, on the other hand, are not communities at all. They are groupings of people seeking to have power and status over others. They are groups that seek to undermine the whole and who seek to destroy those who they consider to be beneath them.
Unfortunately, cliques are prevalent within Christian places of worship, within Christian institutions, and within all aspects of Christianity. There are cliques within the hierarchy of the church, cliques that clergy take part in, and cliques that laity take part in. The church is filled with cliques, with gossip, with slander, and with other forms of evil. All of this, whether we want to admit it exists or not, is to the detriment of the church as a whole.
Christ is calling us to break up our cliques. Christ is commanding us to return to God’s understanding of community. Relationships with others are a beautiful thing when those relationships strengthen and build up the whole; however, when they work to tear down or be better than the whole, they are terribly destructive and antichrisitian. We are called to be the former and to completely avoid being the latter. Christ is challenging us to live as he lived, to love as he loved, and to embrace the world with that love, even if we don’t embrace the ways of the world. Remember Christ’s call for us to be perfect, even as our father in heaven is perfect. It’s a tall order, indeed, and cliques don’t play into it.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Try to have as diverse group of friends as possible and don’t get into the clique scenario.” – Andrew Shue
Lord, break me away from the temptation to be a part of cliques so that I may work toward being inclusive of all. Amen.
Read Romans 1:28-32
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people. ‘Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened. I am the LORD.’” (Leviticus 19:16 NLT)
I can clearly remember my time in Elementary School. I remember that I was not quite in the “popular” group, in fact, I wasn’t “popular” at all…whatever that actually means. I remember what it was like being someone who was being talked about, I remember what it was like having rumors spread about me. By the time I was a junior in high school, I had given up trying to be liked by people. In fact, I used to spread rumors around about myself to see how fast they traveled back to me. Have you ever played that game?
The truth is, I wasn’t guilt-free in the department of participating in gossip, either. None of us are. Each of us have, no doubt had rumors spread about us and we all have, no doubt, participated in the spreading of rumors. What’s worse than that being done in high school or in the world, where it is common place and expected, such gossip is just as prevalent in the church and in the lives of Christians as well. This leads us to Pope Francis I’s 9th Ailment of the Church.
Ailment of the Church #9: Committing the Terrorism of Gossip. According to Paul, we who follow Christ are all a part of Christ’s resurrected body. What does this mean? This means that we are supposed to have died to our old ways, we are supposed to have died to our sinful nature, and we are supposed to have resurrected from that death into a new life. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)! If we have died to our corruption and resurrected back to life, then we shouldn’t be living corruptible lives. Gossip is, perhaps, one of the greater corruptions within the church and it is a blasphemy against the Spirit of the living, resurrected Christ.
In fact, Pope Francis I calls Gossip a form of terrorism and, honestly, it truly is. Anyone who has been gossiped about knows that terror and damage that it causes. It damages one’s psyche, it damages one’s self-image, it damages one’s soul. Conversely, those who engage in gossip are in great peril themselves because they are hardening their own hearts, growing calloused, and the gossip is consuming their own souls. Like the demons in the movie the Evil Dead, gossip enters in and it consumes who ever participates in it. It destroys them and it seeks to destroy the people being gossiped about as well. How can gossip ever have a place in the body of Christ? It can’t, and the truth is that those who continually engage in it separate themselves from that body.
Christ is calling us to stop the terrorism of gossip. We were not meant to participate in such a pernicious sin, one that so closely walks the line between sin and evil. If you are one who is engaging in gossip, if you are one who engages in cutting people down behind their backs, if you are one who slanders people and murders them with your words, then Christ is calling you to die to that part of your life. Let that be nailed to the cross so that you may join Christ in the resurrected life. We, as Christians, are filled with the Holy Spirit and are new creatures in Christ. We are the ones who have been called to bring the hope, healing and wholeness of Christ as opposed to the despair, decay and death that comes from the terrorism of gossip. I pray that you are freed from those bonds that you may live into the resurrected Christ.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.” – Miguel Angel Ruiz
Lord, forgive me, I pray. Kill any traces of gossip within me and heal me from the times that I have been gossiped about. Resurrect me into a new life, free from gossip and any other kind of slander. Amen.