Jonathan Edwards and Resolutions (31): Gossipping, Building Each Other Up, and Plank Surgery
31. Resolved, never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.
3 "And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:3-5 NKJV)
29 "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:29-32 NKJV)
These passages set the tone for Edwards' resolution. In fact, Edwards' 31st resolution is grounded in passages such as those quoted above. We are such a loose-lipped and judgmental society. Just get on social media for a few moments. There is so much hate. There is such much arguing and tearing down. There is so much judging and not for the purpose of building someone up in Christ, but to tear them down and make a mockery of them- in public.
Edwards committed himself against this type of mentality. Edwards committed himself not to do things such as gossip and enter into useless, unproductive debates. This is way easier said than done. This may mean that you keep your mouth shut at prayer meetings regarding other people's sins. For some of you reading this, it may mean that you don't speak much at all because you're so use to gossiping and tearing other people down that you don't have much to say apart from that. And praise God- we will all enjoy the break from your hurtful ramblings. Our ears hurt.
If you call yourself a Christian, you are called to build people up. You are called to build them up toward Christ Jesus. You are to be about the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5: 11-21).
Now, let me give you some handles on how to go about confronting a brother or sister trapped in sin. How can you do this in a way that builds them up and not tear them down? Jesus gives us these handles in Matthew 7 (the passage quoted above) and I'll give you a paraphrase.
First, look at yourself as the worst sinner. In fact, it is biblical to look at yourself as the worst sinner. Paul did this even at the end of his life (1 Timothy 1:15). If you look at yourself as the worst sinner, it humbles you and makes you so grateful that God could save a wretch like you. That is why Jesus says "get the plank" (some translations use the word "log" and I like that word better) out of your eye. Jesus is saying, think of your sin as worse than the person's sin you're confronting.
Second, Jesus teaches us to look at our brother or sister's sin like a speck. A speck. If someone you love has something stuck in their eye what do you do? You gently blow it out so as not to cause further damage. In other words, you gently, humbly, gracefully, and God-centeredly show your brother or sister their sin so that they may repent of sin and enjoy Jesus.
This is the path of building up. So, as Edwards did, resolve yourself not to speak one word, unless that word builds people up in and toward Christ Jesus.