This is a fine example of expository preaching. Wesley does not waver from the points in scripture, he merely expounds it – making it culturally appropriate for his time. There have been times when I have been in the company of people criticising others and I have been guilty of it myself.
I am well known for going to B from A via every letter in the alphabet to avoid criticising something or someone but, under pressure of being dreadfully hurt I can like the rest of humanity explode into a gossiping session.
That is what criticising is – if not done directly to the person. Backbiting, gossiping, criticism are all of the same root and it is not of God.
However, when one of us has done something wrong (how appropriate for this week) there is a format of how to deal with it. Now I have an acquaintance in a position within a church who on knowing someone has done something wrong sits back and waits for that person to appear. Well if the person has rationalised their sin in their own minds they are not going to come. There is a need for individual Christians to be proactive in this regard. And I don’t mean going round everyone pointing out where they are going wrong – “Sure if everyone did it MY way we would all be right with God” No that is not what I mean.
So imagine there are two brothers in a church. Brothers in Christ rather than biological. They don’t have the same personality, one is extrovert and the other introvert. At a meeting the extrovert is loud and bumptious but the introvert has much to say but can’t speak, feels censured by the louder one. The meeting ends in disarray. No one comes away joyful, and this is church, remember.
So what is to be done? Well an older wise brother was also at the meeting and over the course of the next week spoke at length with the two parties. Neither of which were willing to budge. In fact the introvert by this time has rationalised the meeting as the extrovert being a bully. The extrovert feels that no one listens to him, especially the extrovert. At this point the first criteria of the passage from Matthew where Jesus says – go to him is being fulfilled – kind of. The wise brother is being the go between.
But the wise brother is being triangulated by the two injured parties. Would there be anything gained from the two being together alone? No not at this stage. So the wise brother takes another brother with him to first one party then the other. Both injured parties pontificate wildly about the other person. But neither of them see their own fault in the matter.
It is a difficult situation, the wise brothers love the two errant brothers but can’t see how there can be a reconciliation so they take it to the elders of the church. The two are brought before the committee and the extrovert using all their powers of charismatic persuasion sways the meeting in their favour. The introvert leaves the church and is treated like a pagan by the rest of the church.
So yes, ideally the way Jesus outlined should work, if all parties are invested in a solution because we are in church for God’s glory. But we are messy people, some of us are being used by the devil wittingly and unwittingly. My parable is probably one that is more common in church than we like to think, we get very childish in our ways when we know we are in the wrong or have wronged someone.
Wesley puts a challenge on us at the end of his sermon. I should like, he says that Methodists be called “the people who never gossip”
Now that is a challenge to us all!
Jesus loves us, so we love others, love means caring in a very, very compassionate way everyone else.
I watched a youtube clip of Miley Cyrus singing wrecking ball in a live event for radio. She sat on a stool, her hands on her thighs and sang from the depth of her heart. It was one of those moments when you sit in awe of someone’s talent. She has a massive vocal range, she has been given the gift from God and if she were my friend I would tell her certain things. To do so here would be gossip. That is what Wesley is talking about, we don’t have to share with the whole world our opinion on some matter or someone’s behaviour. We do, if they are in our circle, have the responsibility for correcting someone BUT ONLY IN LOVE, not to bolster our own sensitive ego, not to show them up, but quietly and consistently being there for them as they revert to the path to the Lord.