For reasons that are beyond my understanding, as long as there have been celebrities there has been a market for celebrity gossip. As the old television advertisements for National Enquirer used to remind us, “Enquiring minds want to know.”
From that publication and others like it to old-guard television programs such as “Entertainment Tonight” and relatively new ones like “TMZ,” celebrity gossip has never failed to find a sizeable audience. There is within human nature a prurient curiosity about others, especially when those others are famous.
It is obvious that social media has made this appetite easier to feed. What is evidently not obvious enough is that this craving is unhealthy. We learn from Martin Luther’s catechism that the divine injunction against bearing false witness includes the duty to protect our neighbor’s good name. To say it another way, we are to avoid being involved in any communication that unnecessarily hurts anyone else’s reputation.
There are myriad reasons for that, but for the purposes of this article I will state that the court of public opinion almost never affords a fair trial to the accused, for good or for ill. The ease with which “dirt” is exposed, reported, and spread leaves those who consume it wanting more. Indeed, scripture and experience teach us that the best way to make a devious craving stronger is to give it what it wants. Ask any drug addict, alcoholic, overeater, or serial porn-watcher how many times this time has been the last time.
So the more dirt we consume, the more of other people’s sin we gorge ourselves on, the more we want. The more we want, the more we seek. The more we seek the more we find, and so on and so forth ad nauseam. The more this goes on, the more clearly I see that the world does not actually have a solution for sin, guilt, and shame. The world has many false gospels. The world has the moral law to a degree. But it does not have the gospel.
Our Responsibilities Differ Based on Our Station in Life
There is a right time and place to deal with those who harass, abuse, and rape other human beings. Anyone accused of any of that ought to be tried, and if convicted, ought to receive the appropriate legal punition. All of that is a matter of civil righteousness, without which a society cannot survive. So government can deal with civil crimes, and dole out the appropriate retribution or restitution.
How, then, do we deal with moral, rather than civil guilt? Given the amount of moral guilt laid bare before us daily, this is a vital question for the church to keep in mind.
The world’s response to exposed sin is to gather around the sinner, stones firmly in hand, and start warming up their throwing arms. Outrage is an understandable response to the terrible behavior that has come to light out of Hollywood lately. But Christians know, or ought to, at least, that punishing the guilty is the business of government and God, not the Twitter mob.
What God Says to Harvey Weinstein
The world tells Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Sheen, Kevin Spacey, and numerous other people not famous enough to have their crimes mentioned on TMZ that they stand condemned, period. There is no way out. The gospel, on the other hand, tells all people that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
The gospel tells sex offenders, drug addicts, bad parents, violent Antifa and alt-right members, and everyone else that those who call on the name of Jesus Christ will be saved. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians addresses those of us who have believed the gospel, and in reference to sexual immorality and a list of other sins, states, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ”
The world has some idea of what sin is and loves to hear about everybody else’s. The world loves to point and laugh, shame, scorn, and condemn, but does not have a remedy, even for the sin of the pointers, laughers, and condemners. We Christians must resist the temptation to join in the chorus of condemnation and be the ones actually offering the only real solution there is. The world proves more and more clearly every day that it has no gospel. Since we have one, we may as well share it.