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  • Writer's pictureLeonard G. Castañeda

Keep MARITES a Noun, Not a Verb

"If your brother sins against you, go and talk to other people about your brother's sins." - Marites 18:15, Pinoy Culture Version

Of course we know that's not what the Bible says, but Filipino culture, in its aversion towards direct confrontation, has geared itself to become more receptive to gossip, or indirect confrontation. We don't want to offend by confronting, so we inadvertently offend through gossip, since the other party would naturally take offense to our lack of honesty and frankness. Somehow, we hope to effect change in a person without even telling the person what needs to be changed or why it needs to be changed. Isn't that ironic?

I have a theory (unproven) that this is part of the very strong emphasis on community behavior and thinking (as opposed to Western individualism) so we want the communal "groupthink" to be brought to bear on the issue. What this does, however, is escalate the issue beyond the two contending parties by unnecessarily involving others who may or may not be in any position to resolve the problem.

As Christians however, we cannot and should not hide behind the cloak of cultural relativism and ignore the very instructions of Jesus Himself to go and talk to your brother. It's not about Western culture either, since sometimes their level of frankness can be seen as rude and overbearing to our Asian sensibilities. It's about what the Jesus said.

Matthew 18:15-17 presents a model for conflict resolution that recognizes the person-to-person level of communication as the initial level, keeping things between them and hoping for an ending where the erring brother is won. When things don’t turn out well, one or two trusted friends may be called to mediate and to mediate and provide counsel on the matter. The final stage involves the community of faith as a means of restraining the offender and calling him or her to repentance. Only when the person is impervious to the community admonition does the community move to sanction the person by treating him or her as an outsider.

Gossip undermines this by talking to the wrong people (others) in the wrong way (the other party has no opportunity to be heard), and as anyone who has been the victim of gossip would attest, it creates animosity. The issue now is no longer just the original offense or the conflict, but includes the act of gossiping about it. This makes resolution of the conflict, and reconciliation between adversaries, far more difficult.

I personally admit that to go against the grain of the cultural norm is difficult. Our values, our expectations, both towards ourselves and others, are very much shaped by the environment and reinforced by the examples we see around us. But we must not be enslaved to cultural norms but rather, submit ourselves to God's authoritative word as our basis for faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Let us also remember that gossip is not some casual sin in the Bible, but figures prominently among the sin lists in the New Testament:

"They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips," - Romans 1:29

"For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder." - 2 Corinthians 12:20

"Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not." - 1 Timothy 5:13

Can gossip be resisted? Yes! Because...

"...the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. " (Titus 2:11-12)


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