There is secret sin in the hallways of many churches. A hidden monster that destroys the witness and effectiveness of many churches. These sins are gossip and bitterness. These carnal actions have are permissible because they are not as obvious as sexual sin, drunkenness, and other forms of immorality. These hidden sins are often allowed to continue because they are incredibly difficult for church leaders to enact church discipline. However, these sins more than any others can destroy the witness and testimony of the local church in its community.
Gossip is the most clearly disguised of church sins. Often under the guise of women's small groups and emergency prayer groups is the sinful motivation of gossip. Christians often love talking about each other behind the other persons back. This sin often has a spiritual spin as a prayer request, but in a reality it is just plain gossip. The topics of gossip know no end. Christians gossip about an unpopular leadership decision, sin in another persons life, other people's marriages and children. Many times Christian fellowship looks more like middle schoolers at recess than the body of Christ on mission.
The troubling thing about gossip is that it is often the default way of handling conflict in the church. When one member has a problem with a pastor or another church member, rather than going to them directly they begin the gossip chain. A church with this sort of culture quickly becomes the petri dish of bitterness. Gossip is the moister and bitterness is the mold that follows. And as any home owner will tell you, mold is costly to fix. The best thing to do for the culture of a church is to cut off the cause of bitterness, gossip.
Jesus tells his disciples in John 13:34 of a new commandments which is to "love one another." Jesus tells them just as He has loved the disciples so too should they love one another. Jesus continues and tells them "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." You see the love church members have for one another ought to be a visible demonstration of the love of Christ. If a church is filled with carnal members who spend their time gossiping and tearing down each other, the witness of that church in its community is greatly hindered. When we make up slanderous accusations against one another, when we are relentlessly angry and mean towards each other, when we exalt our own egos at the cost of unity, we fail in proclaiming the love of Christ to a lost and dying world. The world will know we are disciples of Christ if we love one another. May we fall on our face and repent from these permissible sins. May we ask for forgiveness from God and also from one another. May we put to death all carnality in the body of Christ and be visible proclamations of the Gospel by of our love for one another.