Can giving a warning about a false teacher be gossip?

Question:

I was reading an article written by someone on your website about the subject of gossip. Gossip was condemned by the person who wrote the article. But, what about if you're exposing a false teacher, whether they're well known by others or not? I believe that we should raise awareness of a wolf in sheep's clothing, for several reasons. What do you think?


Answer:

Exposing sin is required. "Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret" (Ephesians 5:11-12). Paul warned Timothy about some false teachers:

"This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme" (I Timothy 1:18-20).

"Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works" (II Timothy 4:14).

Warnings are needed, but even here it could turn into gossip. When you warn people about a false teacher, but you don't know the person or his teachings, then you could be spreading a rumor. To warn others about someone when you haven't talked to the person to try and convince him of the truth could show that you don't about the person you are talking about. Notice that in both examples from Paul, Paul was personally acquainted with the false teachers and what they taught. It seems clear that he tried to persuade them and they remained unconvinced.

The old "three gates" makes a good checklist:

  • Is it true? Do you know for certain that you have the facts correct?
  • Is it kind? Is the aim to get a person out of sin, keep a person from sinning, or are you seeking revenge?
  • Is it needful? Are you helping people not get caught in the false teaching or are you trying to make yourself look superior in the eyes of those you are talking to.

Thank you, Jeffrey! I appreciate your response.