Thoughts from the Sycomore’s weekly reading of Acts…
17:10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. 13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea.
The overt aggression towards Paul, Silas, and Timothy triggered a thought in me—something seemingly opposite of it but probably just as destructive, if not more. Something that I’ve become more and more sensitive to over the years is passive-aggressiveness. When we come across people who are passive-aggressive, it often leaves us confused. They actually don’t say much. When we’re with them, they give the appearance of people who are seemingly calm (they’re actually not—it’s the opposite as they don’t know what to do with all the emotions swirling about, so they detach themselves) and even apologetic (but only as a way of deflecting the conflict—hence running away). But when we walk away, we do so with a distinct aftertaste of having been a victim of some kind of manipulation. That manipulation is confirmed when we experience the “aggression” part—which is usually not done personally (as in via email or through a conversation with someone else, etc.). And the behind the “scenes conversation” is called gossip. And what drives gossip—is passive-aggressiveness.
Gossip is one of the most destructive practices in every society. And the Kingdom of God is not immune to it. Even the Berean Jews who are described as those who are “more noble” of character than those in Thessalonica—those who delved into the Scriptures, were susceptible to its insidious influence. This is because passive-aggressiveness and gossip are the character and practice of the devil himself—the father of lies. As we all know, he is a master of the twisting and manipulation of what may even be the truth. As we can see from the very beginning of today’s text, it doesn’t always take a full blown riot to stir up a crowd against the gospel of Jesus Christ. The subtle-ness of gossip and passive-aggressiveness is like their nature a “slight of the hand.” It’s meant to lull us from paying attention. It’s also at its core cowardly. Passive-aggressiveness and gossip are fear-driven.
I’ve come to realize just how passive-aggressive our entire Asian culture is. Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and all of Eastern religions are passive-aggressive in their nature. They preach serenity and yet does not do anything (except stuffing them deeper into our soul) with the emotions that we rightfully and need to feel. That nothingness is at the core of Zen—the ultimately goal of life. We not only practice it. We promote it. And we’re not alone. As long as we do not become aware of the passive-aggressiveness in our lives, gossip is right around the corner. Unlike the Eastern religions, we must not simply avoid or manipulate conflict or our emotions, but must honestly deal with what we’re supposed to feel before God and then have honest and courageous conversations as well—if you look carefully, that’s exactly what Jesus Himself modeled for us. #desiringGod2017