In the last issue of The Good News we learned that God hates gossip and we saw from the Bible itself (flat slander pandering is an enormous evil for which God will hold the guilty responsible. But what about "the right to know"? Today, the Watergate hearings and subsequent subpoenas of tapes with their missing segments has so frustrated and enraged the general public that a broad "credibility gap" has become even broader; "executive privilege," suspect; and the general public has a very greatly intensified feeling that everyone has "the right to know"!
IT is essential in a free society that. there be absolute candor and honesty between government and the people. Since the whole concept of the democratic system is a government "of the people" — that government is responsible to the people, and that the people are the ones who actually do the governing — it appears to be virtual abandonment of these most basic and fundamental principles for one in a high office of government to claim "executive privilege," or to insist that the public does not possess "the right to "I know." In a human government, this is. understandable.
The Right to Know
But what about God's government? What about the principle of "the right to know" when it is sin, wretchedness, lies, hatred, slander, and all assorted forms of evil which represent such "knowledge"? A veritable landslide of pornography is all based upon perversion of "the right to know" of the individual. If it happens, it's news! So, no matter the hideous, macabre "evidence" of a grisly crime, it., is flashed on your home television set. No matter how terrible and horrible the spectre of wretchedly suffering children may be in India, Africa" or Bangladesh, you must see it while sitting in your home. After the sensational assassinations of the 1960s, and the growing intensity of the Viet N am war, Americans increasingly began to adjust to the fantastic spectacle of warfare — including burning bodies, the rattle of machine guns and the explosion of bombs and mortars, and the grisly details of the Calley case — all seen along with their evening TV dinners. If a pervert has weird or obscene reasonings which lead him to believe he is his own grandmother, then the public has "the right to know." If a poor little girl was dismembered by a vicious sadistic rapist, then the most., ghastly details imaginable are luridly described to a gaping public, because, after all, they have "the right to know." Presumably, then, if Mrs. Aloysius P. McGillicuddy (a fictitious name) is sitting in her parlor humming to herself as she is getting about the business of knitting a sweater for a grandchild, and some young hoodlums notice some incredibly filthy green slime drifting by in the gutter outside — their Teal responsibility, since it is "happening" right on Mrs. McGillicuddy's property, is to wrap up the sordid mess in a plastic bag, rush into Mrs. McGillicuddy's living room, and dump it on the carpet — for after all, Mrs. McGillicuddy surely has a "right to know" what is floating by in her own gutter! I did not want to view the sickening and horrifying spectacle of human beings leaping from a flaming hotel in New Orleans! I literally cried, with a combination of horror and, sorrow, with my stomach churning in shock and pain, after I had to watch an evening newscast of a terrible hotel fire in New Orleans which included the grisly and never-to-be-forgotten spectacle of poor helpless human beings, screaming their terror, either falling or leaping from a flaming building to their deaths below. Frankly, I wish I had never seen those films! It is bad enough to have to read in the newspapers of such terrible tragedies, without witnessing it in person on television! There are over 55,000 Americans killed on our highways every year. I am so thankful that I only need to see one or two such occurrences, since. that would be the normal number that I might unfortunately expect to see in the course of any one year of driving. But it's news. It's "what's happening." But should I always need to know the grisly details of EVERYTHING that is happening? No, this "right to know" everything that is going on is, believe it or not, condemned in the Word of God. God Almighty reveals in His Word that even the Bible itself contains only certain ESSENTIAL knowledge, and that even angels, God's prophets and patriarchs of old, His New Testament apostles, and even most of us• today, do not really KNOW everything about the mind of our Creator, and do not really have "the right to know" many things which God is keeping unto Himself!
Does God Reveal Everything?
Is your Creator — your God, your RULER, your Lord and Master, the One who will judge (and is now judging) you, and me — constrained to reveal everything we want to know? Does He let us in on all the high' level conversations and discussions held with His top angelic advisors? Do you know that even God's own faithful angels don't know everything about everything God is doing and will do? Even the mighty prophets of the Old Testament period did not always understand the far-reaching significance of their own messages. Peter explained: "Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow .... [of] which things the angels desire to look into" (I Peter 1:10-12). Incredible as it may sound, even men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel were not fully "in the know"! Your God determined that it should be that way. He told "Daniel that the words which he had received were closed and sealed until the time of the end (Dan. 12:9-10). And the Apostle Paul himself stated: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Rom. 11:33.) Both the Old and the New Testaments contain only that knowledge which is essential for salvation. There are tremendous omissions — including the fact that Adam' lived almost one sixth of the total time elapsed until now! Only the highlights of biblical history are revealed. It is like seeing only a brief, fleeting glimpse through a keyhole.
Does the great God of heaven allow His human creation to question His motives and methods? Does He subject Himself to endless interrogations from His human instruments in an effort to convince them to have confidence in His divine wisdom? Did God and does He now permit human questioning of His purposes and principles? Let's understand. Job spoke of the God "Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number. Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not. Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?" (Job 9:10-12:) And Isaiah said under the direct inspiration of that same great God: "Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it?..." (Isa. 10:15). It ought to make sense to us that there are many things God has simply not chosen to reveal to human beings. It is His privilege to withhold information for our own good. Truly, "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God..." (Deut. 29:29).
What About the Church of God?
Is God's own Church entitled to exercise executive privilege? Must its membership, know everything that goes on at the executive level? Must all decisions be fully explained and justified to the lay membership of the Church? Stop and think a moment! If this is really the true Church of the living God — headed by Jesus Christ then can't He guide those whom He has chosen to be His leading human instruments? Can He not correct them if they need it? Can He not pick them up if they stumble? Will He not forgive them if they err in judgment, not meaning to do so? Of course He can! Let's not limit the Holy One of Israel! Look at Christ's own example during His earthly ministry. Jesus spoke privately to His own disciples (ministers) and said they could understand, but that it was not given to the general public to understand (read Matt. 13:10-13). Later, after Christ's death, resurrection and ascension to heaven, a crucial ministerial conference was called at Jerusalem over the issue of circumcision and the keeping of the physical; ritualistic laws of Moses (Acts 15:5). There was much animated discussion among the apostles and the elders about these questions. But we are not told just exactly what was said. Luke, author of the book of Acts, simply doesn't detail all the arguments presented. We are only told of the apostles' decision to write a letter, giving certain specific guidelines to tile Gentile Christians. And that's it! God did not feel that the Church in general needed to know every last minute detail of every last argument about the matter. If some of these early Christians had reasoned the way some people are prone to reason today, they would have said: "But they are only giving us the 'top of the iceberg' — they are only giving us a few of the basic essentials of what went on at Jerusalem! That's very suspicious! That means there must be something they are trying to hide!" Loud and insistent "brethren" would insist they were being kept "in the dark" about the real reasons for the final decision concerning circumcision and eating things sacrificed to idols, and they would DEMAND to know ALL that "went on" down there at "Headquarters" at Jerusalem! They would have accused the apostles of "withholding truth" from them, since there is only the sketchiest information concerning what was said at the Headquarters of God's Church during the Jerusalem Conference! But no, there is no record that these early Christians charged there was a "credibility gap" between themselves and the leaders at the Headquarters in Jerusalem because they were only given a brief "decree" from the Apostle Paul, and that the Headquarters ministry had decided to "lay no other burden on them," and to keep the statements going out from that conference very simple, forthright, and uninvolved!
Paul's calling and ministry was certainly unique among all the apostles and ministers. Jesus Christ spoke personally to the Apostle Paul — he was not called in the usual manner of other elders following the original twelve (see Acts, chapters 9 and 22). Paul was one "begotten out of due season." Naturally we would expect the other apostles to resent Paul's one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus did not consult them about it before calling Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Nor did Paul check with them when he was commissioned by the Head of the Church! Jesus Christ of Nazareth taught him the gospel personally and directly (Gal. 1:11-12). Paul had no need of conferring with flesh and blood (verse 16). And as he explained: "Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus" (verse 17). Three years later, Paul did spend two weeks with the Apostle Peter (verse 18). "But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother" (verse 19). Even the Headquarters Church had only heard about Paul by reputation and word of mouth. When the congregations in Judaea heard about Paul's acts and deeds, they glorified God! They did not carp and gripe about not knowing enough about Paul, and who is he t6 be doing that, or who does he think he is? Rather, they were happy and joyful that God was using a man who had once vigorously persecuted the Church! It's not our job as Christians to question God's purposes or just how He works them out through His admittedly fallible human instruments. God knows what He's doing! Who are we to question God? Paul reflects on the utter futility of doing so: "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" (Rom. 9:18-20.)
"The Right to Know"
Parents, you know that there are certain things you must withhold from your children for their own good. You don't allow them to attend X-rated movies, or wallow in pornography and obscene magazines, do you? You withhold plastic bags, dangerous toys, harmful detergents, killer insecticides and foodless foods from them all the time. You don't always allow them to be in on every conversation you might have — some discussions are "not for their little ears." Right? Yet on other occasions you do allow them to be involved in certain family discussions. It's a discretionary matter, up to you as parents to decide. In spite of our natural, morbid curiosity, there are some things we really don't appreciate hearing! Solomon, in his wisdom, wrote: "ALSO TAKE NO HEED UNTO ALL WORDS THAT ARE SPOKEN; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: for oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others" (Eccl. 7:21-22). We have all spoken, thought and expressed evil things about others. And, chances are, others have spoken evil of us. But should we then delight in speaking evil of others — allowing ourselves to indulge in slanderous talemongering? I think we know the answer. Scandal may be exciting at first, but its long-run effect is bitter and debilitating. Whether we hear evil about ourselves or others, it is never encouraging, or edifying! Don't you think that the world is filled with enough evil and scandal without the people of God adding to the misery? The Apostle Paul discouraged members of the Church from even discussing certain things. He said: "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. FOR IT IS A SHAME EVEN TO SPEAK OF THOSE TIDINGS WHICH ARE DONE OF THEM IN SECRET" (Eph. 5:11-12). Some things are not worth discussing. Why should a member of Christ's own body want to wallow in graphic descriptions of the sins and weaknesses of another Church member — or anyone, for that matter? Paul further instructed the Church: "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace [favor or blessing] to the hearers" (Eph. 4:29). Do gossip, slander and talebearing minister grace to the hearer? Are they encouraging, edifying or upbuilding? Or aren't they, in real fact, utterly depressing, frustrating and disgusting? Somehow the news media has created the impression that we have a "right to know." If it is "news," print it; shout it from the housetops! But it's one thing to be truly informed, and quite another to revel in inscriptions and graffiti on washroom walls! It's one thing to be highly educated, informed and knowledgeable, and quite another to wallow in pornography and filth.
The Gossip's Bait
Gossips and slander panderers have enticing bait which they dangle before the potential recipient. Certain catch phrases are real winners. We've all heard: "Oh, have you heard that...?" or "Now this is really sad..." or "I was never so shocked as when I heard that...." "It's like the lecherous leer of Tijuana pornography hawkers: "Psstt, hey Mister, wanna buy some dirty pictures?" Who can resist such bait? Who is big enough to say no to the lure of the gossip? A true Christian is!
Spiritual Grave Digging
Those who traffic in stories about other people's past sins are like spiritual grave diggers. They rob the corpses and then sell them to eager buyers. Yet there are those in every church congregation who wallow in the suspicion or knowledge of other peoples' sins! They are focal points for gossip and scandalous stories of sinister "goings on." Everyone knows where to go if they want to "find out" something. Such people are spots and blemishes on the body of Christ! They set themselves up as judges of other men's sins. Yet Christ instructs His Church: "Judge not, that Ye be not judged" (Matt. 7:1). Love covers — not bares and reveals — a multitude of sins (Prov. 10:12). It is not love to "expose" someone — especially some of your own brethren in Christ! Christ said all such judgment was committed to God. Paul said that he judged no one. Are we better than Paul — or Christ Himself? Has God made us judges of each other? Let James answer: Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He, that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" (James 4:11-12.) Of course, this doesn't mean that we cannot bring to a brother's attention a really serious sin. But we should go personally to him — not to other brethren — and eventually to the ministry if he simply won't listen (see Matt. 18:15-17 and Gal. 6:1). The very beginning principles of love, joy, peace and the other fruits of God's Holy Spirit are not gossip, talebearing, and rumormongering! Gossip is every bit as much sin as murder, adultery1lyingor any other violation of the Ten Commandments. In fact, in the long run, it could be even more damaging! Causing people to lose confidence in their leaders is one of the most terrible things anyone could do — especially if those leaders happen to be God's very ordained servants! Rumormongering divides, destroys and creates confusion. It create doubt among little ones. Those who are new (and less stable) cannot always cope with the debilitating stories circulated by confirmed gossips. It can destroy them spiritually! Jesus said, "Woe be unto them by whom offences come," speaking of spiritual "little ones" — which He had just illustrated by picking up, a little child and holding the child in His arms (Matt. 18:l-7). Jesus Christ said it would be better that a person had a millstone hung about his neck and that "he were "cast into the sea" rather than to offend one of these "little ones" with their fresh, shining, eager faces, looking up in sincere desire to learn from the "milk of the word" and to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ — but who instead are fed a giant meal of garbage and slop.
The Official Grapevine
Those of us in authority in God's Church have never attempted to conceal from the members what they really need to know! Actually, that's the very reason I wanted to start an official Church newspaper — The Worldwide News. Let me quote to you from my personal. letter in the very first issue: "...With the giant strides of this great worldwide Work, it has become increasingly difficult to keep the brethren INFORMED about what is going on. We are WORLDWIDE NOW and much is happening that you brethren need to know to inspire you in your own private Christian growth — so you can PRAY more effectively for this Work, so, you can live in the crystal-clear knowledge of what is the 'straight scoop' from Headquarters, instead of the nebulous apprehensions of the" 'grapevine' of rumors and part-truths. "Jesus said, 'You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you FRIENDS; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you' (John 15-14;15). "Each of you has a great stake in this Work — that of your whole life! You want to know about it, to share in the joys, the exuberance, the excitement and satisfaction — as well as share in the heartache and sorrow when it comes — even as Jesus' own disciples could closely observe Christ's every trial or triumph. "Actually, I feel much of what we have called the 'grapevine' is born of the deep desire to KNOW that is shared by many of you brethren". (The Worldwide News,. April!, 1973, p.24). I think that expresses it about as well as anything. I Know, and my father knows, that you have a need to be informed about the Work to which we have all dedicated our lives. And you will be informed — The Good News magazine, The Worldwide News, my father's co-worker letters, are all part of a massive effort to keep you in the know. But you don't need to know about anyone's sins — in or out of the Work. And other brethren don't have the "right to know" about yours. Those who spread gossip are attacking themselves as well as others! They should first cast the log jams out of their own eyes so they can see more clearly to cast the slivers out of others' (see Matt. 7:2-5). Brethren. Let's forsake gossip and talebearing. Let's abandon and bury all stories of others' alleged sins. Let's speak no evil and strive to hear no evil about our brethren. Garbage in — garbage out! If your mind feeds on garbage, that is all that will come out of it. Who would think of putting corrupt, putrid, stinking garbage into their food? Then WHY PUT IT INTO OUR MINDS? Let's not wallow in the knowledge or suspicion of sin. Let's not judge. And where sin has been committed, let's forgive and forget! God does! And finally let's take the admonition of the Apostle Paul: "For, brethren; ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. BUT IF YE BITE AND DEVOUR ONE ANOTHER, TAKE HEED THAT YE BE NOT CONSUMED ONE OF ANOTHER" (Gal. 5:13-15).