“Did anyone tell you about Jeff?”
“No, what’s up?”
“He and his wife splitting up.”
“Yeah, Veronica just texted me, his wife just up and left.”
“Hey, let’s DM Jill and see what she knows.”
Have you ever experienced a conversation like the one above? Sometimes it’s really tempting to be “in the know” rather than “out of the loop”. We feel valued when someone shares something with us that few other people know. Even more, there is power in sharing that secret with others. When the secret is something positive, like a surprise birthday party for someone, it is great fun for everyone. But when secrets tear people and communities down instead of building them up, the results can be devastating.
However, gossip damages us. While it’s true that God made us to be social creatures (“It is not good for man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18), sin has corrupted this desire for relationship. And instead of building healthy communities and friendships, we end up gossiping about someone else just so we can be accepted.
In most circumstances, gossip is a betrayal of trust, and trust is very hard to come by for most people. It is the foundational element for any significant relationship. Without trust, most of us will not share our inner thoughts and feelings with anyone, no matter how deeply we may need that bond. In fact, we will often isolate ourselves rather than risk the pain of our insecurities being mocked publicly.
It is expectantly ironic that those who gossip in order to connect with others will likely find themselves on the receiving end at some point. But if joining in the gossip is not the answer, how do you deal with this issue like Jesus would? God is against all forms of gossip. Proverbs 6:16-19 says there are seven things that the Lord finds “detestable” and speaking falsely against someone is in that list. In fact, giving a false testimony against someone made it into God’s Top 10 in Exodus 20:16.
James 1:26 tells us that someone who thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue is “deceiving himself” and has a “useless” religion. Perhaps the most telling is that, in Romans 1:28-32, Paul included gossips and slanderers in the same list as those who hate God and murder!
God despises this practice of intentionally causing pain to others by what we say, type and post. As followers of Jesus, we have to embrace the standard of love that Jesus called us to. Spend some time in 1 Corinthians 13, and then learn to filter what you say or post through that checklist.
Before you speak or act, ask yourself, “Is this patient and kind?” “Am I just boasting or speaking out of envy?” In fact, make a regular practice of evaluating your entire life against this lofty set of goals. Starting in verse 4, replace the word “love” with your name. “Jason is patient”, “Jason is kind”, “Jason does not envy”, etc. Are those true statements? Jesus said people will know you belong to Him if you love one another.
You can fight the sickness of gossip. Proverbs 26:20 says that, like a fire, gossip stops when people stop gossiping. With a fire, you can let it go out slowly on its own or dump water on it to speed things up. The same is true for gossip. When you are invited to gossip about someone or some group, you could just walk away or try to change the subject. Or, you could stand up for what is right and challenge those around you to treat others with respect. Ask the gossiper, in love and gentleness, “Would you want someone to talk about you like that?”
Technology has advanced so much. For most of us, being isolated from those around us is one of the worst things we can experience, especially in our younger years. When you are invited to gossip, will you tear the community down just to build yourself up, or will you let the light of Jesus shine in the darkness?
"The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing". Proverbs 12:18
Stand tall. Don't allow the gossip to continue through your words, messages and posts. Don't let the destruction of the church community continue. Seek truth, not recognition. This certainly won’t be easy, but it is what Jesus did for you. He endured unimaginable hate, ridicule, and torment to save you from your sins precisely because you could not do it yourself. See you Sunday!