I’ve never studied criminal law, but I’ve seen a lot of episodes of Law & Order, which makes me an expert. Most of the shows start with someone getting murdered, the cops (the “Order”) investigate suspects, then the district attorney (the “Law”) prosecutes the alleged murderer. Typically, the legitimate killer is indicted and found guilty—justice served. But sometimes the Order botches the investigation or the Law fumbles the case, and the killer walks on a technicality. Maybe the police didn’t have a search warrant. Maybe the D.A. said things in court that were inadmissible. Whatever it was, the guilty one is allowed back on the streets.
It doesn’t seem right that there are laws to protect criminals. Unless, of course, you’re the accused and are, in fact, innocent, then you appreciate those laws. But it’s a travesty when the guilty get off on a technicality. Where’s the justice?
One Wrong Makes Another Right (sort of)
I remembering reading in a parenting book about how when you lose your anger with your child then you’ve lost the opportunity to discipline. Nothing you say will be heard, because they will be fearful of your angry tone—especially us fathers. In a sense, whatever behavior of theirs inflamed such anger has to be exonerated. Because you sinned against your child in losing your temper, then you’ve really no leg to stand on. They get off on a technicality. A breach of the child’s version of Miranda Rights: “You have the right to a calm and collected father in disciplinary proceedings.”
I was talking with some friends recently about gossip, how it destroys unity in the church—brothers and sisters in the family of God. But here’s the thing: whatever grievance you have against someone that led to your gossiping about them loses merit the instant you sin against them with your slander. It may not seem fair; it may not seem right. But when you involve others in a dispute you have with someone, then you’ve upped the ante.
Jesus gave clear instructions on how to resolve a quarrel with a fellow brother or sister:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. —Matthew 18:15-20 ESV
(No offense if you work for the I.R.S.)
So the first step is not to call other people or post on Facebook about what someone has done to you. Jesus says to go to the person individually and try to work it out.
If your attempt to work it out doesn’t resolve anything, THEN you can involve others. But only a couple people and not for the purpose of gossip but to try to bring about peace. If things still don’t work out, then you go to your church. This doesn’t mean you start telling everybody at church what someone did to you, trying to gain some sympathy. No, this means bringing the case before your leaders, those who are concerned about the offending party’s repentance, not simply justice for you.
“Where two or three are gathered …
Most people stop reading this Matthew 18 passage where I stopped, but there’s more:
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” —Matthew 18:18-20 ESV
We like this verse. Where two or more gather in Jesus’ name, then he’s right there with us. Oh, and I can ask for anything I want and Jesus will give it to me. But note the context. Surely Jesus is always with us; he promised he would never leave nor forsake us. But his special presence surrounds us when we as children in the family of God look to resolve our disagreements and reestablish peace, and when we seek peace, he will grant it. Jesus alone is the one who can soften a heart to repentance.
Nowhere in Jesus’ instructions are we granted permission to gossip. If we choose to do so, then it’s the equivalent of an unlawful search. We’d better be okay with allowing the guilty to walk. Whether it seems unjust or not, our offense negates theirs. Let’s aim for peace the way Jesus outlined.
[Jesus said,] “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” —Matthew 12:36-37 ESV.