Firstly, Matt Chandler has never been more than an occasional blip on my discernment radar. I’ve vaguely been aware that he has some questionable theology, so I’ve kept him at arm’s length. But, as I’ve said before, I no longer have time nor energy to research all the celebrity pastors and teachers who populate the evangelical landscape. So in that respect, I really don’t care about the online conversations with a woman that led to him stepping down from his ministry position. So much about that situation remains unclear at this point that I just don’t feel knowledge enough to formulate an opinion. Actually, I see no valid reason for me to formulate an opinion.
My invalid reason for formulating an opinion would be to reinstate my discernment blogger status. My article on God’s wrath didn’t attract many readers, even though such articles on Christian doctrine develop discernment much more effectively than articles exposing false teachers and evangelical celebrities. If I’d dig up some juicy dirt on Matt Chandler and add in some speculation, I’d draw attention.
This matter ties in with my ongoing examination of Titus 2:3-5:
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (NASB95)
A few weeks ago, we talked about the example of reverence that older women must set for younger women. As we read on in verse 3, we encounter two illustrations of reverent behavior that Paul felt important to highlight. We’ll deal with the issue of alcohol dependence in another post, since the topic of malicious gossip comes first in this twofold picture of reverence. Indeed, as I’ve read and thought about the latest scandal with Matt Chandler, I’ve concluded that some reactions to it bleed over into the very gossip that Paul wants older women to avoid.
Yes, Chandler has definite problems with his theology that several reputable discernment ministries have exposed over the years. In such cases, his errors were carefully documented. They were public errors, and therefore weren’t products of speculation and innuendo. Please don’t misinterpret this article as saying that we shouldn’t critique popular teachers when they deviate from God’s Word in either doctrine or behavior. Matt Chandler veered from Scripture more than once, and very qualified people have warned against him. These warnings don’t fall under the umbrella of malicious gossip because 1) discernment ministries provided sound verification of their claims and 2) they sincerely sought to protect others from deception. Many prayed for his repentance.
In the current situation with Chandler, however, very few details have come to light. All we really know is that his inappropriate online conversations with a woman included coarse jesting, resulting in him stepping down from his position as a pastor. Like it or not, ladies, that’s all we know! Anything beyond those simple facts moves us dangerously close to malicious gossip.
Most of the commentaries I read on Titus 2:3 said that that Greek word rendered “malicious gossip” refers to slander, and has the purpose of damaging someone’s reputation. For instance, using the current scandal with Matt Chandler in order to reinforce one’s position that he is a false teacher constitutes malicious gossip because it depends on reading something into the few known facts to portray him as guilty of emotional adultery. At this point, we don’t really know if the inappropriate online conversations actually included sexual communication. Maybe so, but it’s only conjecture at this point. Therefore, insisting on such a conclusion boarders on slander.
That sort of of gossip doesn’t befit any Christian, and certainly not an older Christian woman! Slanderous gossip — even regarding a known false teacher — violates an enormous amount of Scripture. Consider, for example, Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus:
30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. ~~Ephesians 4:30-32
Notice that putting away carnal attitudes and behavior keeps us from grieving the Holy Spirit. As we maliciously gossip, then, we grieve Him. I often forget how sorrowfully He reacts when I share information (laced with innuendo and speculation) meant to put someone unnecessarily in a bad light. I imagine most people also forget this truth.
Women stereotypically struggle with gossip to a greater degree than men. I don’t have time to debate the validity of that stereotype, but it’s important to recognize that older women have a special responsibility to stay away from this sin and to model this obedience to our younger sisters in Christ. False teachers will always give us an excuse too compromise in this area, but the Holy Spirit will give us His strength to resist temptation. Instead of grieving Him, let’s run to Him for that strength, praising Him for His faithfulness.