She was a little bit angry with me. As if her raised voice and scowl weren't enough of a reminder, she punctuated her syllables with her hand on the table top in frustration. Frustration that I had not caused, but also had refused to make my issue. Rather than engage her, I instructed her to speak with the person who offended her and told her I could not defend myself against the second hand statements she presented. "Why not?!?!" was her question and quite a question she posed. Why, would I not defend myself against false, second hand, gossip given statements? Why would I not meet with someone to "set the record straight"? Why could I not even engage in this non-discussion? Because many years ago I made a promise to my Savior that if he would drag my sorry carcass out of the stinking pit I had gotten into, I would NEVER crawl back into it again.
Sin hurts. It is designed to maim, kill, and destroy us. Even faithful Christians can fall into sin, and not just a little sin, but great big ugly stinking sin. Take Galatians for example.
Galatians 6:1Another version says if someone is "overcome" by sin. I think "caught" is a more vivid verb here. I once heard a teacher describe this an an animal caught in a snare. No animal likes to be caught and will thrash around trying to break free. More often than not all that thrashing just makes a bigger mess, and a worse wound. Don't miss the warning here - those who are spiritual - those who are above reproach, they are the ones to restore him, but there is the chance that even they could fall into sin.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of gentleness. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
1 Corinthians 10:12-13Here again this speaks to the believer, sin is a real thing, even when you think you stand firm, you could be falling down.
So the one who thinks he is standing firm should be careful not to fall. No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.But when you are tempted, He will also provide an escape, so that you can stand up under it
My sin was awful, I thought I was standing - really I was falling. I thought I could get out of the pit, in truth I made it much worse. Was I the only sinner that day, was I single-handedly responsible for the outcome of the actions of a group? No, I was not. But, I was solely responsible for my own actions and that was what Jesus wanted to talk to me about. In the midst of the trouble, I wanted to talk about everyone else's issue "But she did this, Lord" and "That one said this, they lied!" and so on, but the more I pointed at others, the more the Lord pointed back at me.
I felt wretched, miserable, diseased, ill used and forgotten. It took that low pit for me to look up. Jesus was waiting, and as soon as I repented and began to be obedient to him, He pulled me out of the pit and put my feet back on solid ground. If you've ever had a hard fall, and I pray that you do not, you will know the freedom that I experienced. Even though there were things I had to take care of, it was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was not only able to walk forward, but completely willing and happy to walk forward in faith. This was about 7 years ago, and while I can't say I have been perfect since that time, I can say that I was fully delivered out of this particular area of sin in my life.
A few years ago I got a text from a very dear friend who wrote:
"Can I just encourage you that your obedience to not gossip ever is such a blessing to me. I have conversations in which people tell me things about themselves that make me think "huh, Amanda never mentioned this when we talked about this." and I'm encouraged. Good work, sister."What a blessing, what a beautiful good word to be spoken over my life. What a wonder that someone could be pulled out of a pit, washed off, covered in grace, so much so that these words would be spoken of them. I am truly blessed.
The downside of being pulled out of a pit is that in realizing that you were in the pit, and realizing that if you never want to go back, you have to then become obedient to what the Lord wants from your life, which is sometimes a difficult path to walk. To top it all off, it seems our Savior wants to use our pit experiences to encourage help others. He pulls us out of a pit so that we can tell others that there is a Savior who is familiar with pulling people out of pits!
So, when someone came to me with a complaint about another, I asked them to stop, and go to the one who had offended them. When another loudly and repeatedly, shamefully, treated me and others around me - we tried to explain the Savior, and then we taught Matthew 18, and when they were still brash and unrepentant, threatening, and rude - we followed Matthew 18 to it's conclusion, with as much love, patience and with an open door should they ever want to return.
Recently someone sent me an email stating they had been "made aware" (aka been party to gossip) of some things and believed them and as such I would be excluded from their fellowship. They further stated I was welcome to sit down and "discuss" this with them. (I'm not sure how someone could possibly discuss gossip without being a gossip... but I digress)
When I refused, they spread their rumors to others, saying I had unreasonably refused them, making intimation that there was "more to the story" and that I had somehow personally wronged them.
To sum up - First, I lived in a pit, then -once out of the pit I repeatedly had those around me who wanted to live in a pit of their own, and my Savior, having pulled me out of a pit, bids me to go and encourage them that He can also pull them out of a pit. Which sometimes resulted in their general scorn and dislike, which was then gossiped about (cause they never got out of their pit) bringing even more to slander against me, even to my friends.
What does my Savior say about all this?
Luke 6:22-23I am blessed. Free from the pit, washed clean, placed in a place of honor, given a new name, a new mind, a new spirit. I get to live from victory to victory. I no longer stink of the pit, I no longer thrash about like a trapped animal. I stand, because He is able to make me stand. I am one with Christ, set free, no longer a slave but an heir to the kingdom.
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
PS - having excluded every name and circumstance from this post, if you know EXACTLY what I am talking about... someone in a pit has reached out to you! RUN away from the pit. It is terrible, take my word for it, don't get into the pit.