If you received the last issue of The Sower, I hope you had time to read the questions concerning gossip and take some time to consider them. Before looking at those, however, I would like you to think about the following word—unity. What do you think of when you see this word? Well, let me first propose a verse for you that I think exemplifies unity.
So in Christ we who are many form one [unified] body, and each member belongs to all the others.
If you know anything about the human body, you know that when one part suffers, the rest of the body responds to help the suffering part cope and heal. The human body is a perfect example of how unity should work, so it comes as no surprise that God chose this metaphor to explain how Christians should interact with one another.
Good old Mr. Webster (American Dictionary) does a great job of explaining Christian interaction when “he” describes “Christian” as “oneness of sentiment, affection, or behavior.” Simply put, in sentiment and affection, we are to be unified in our treatment of one another (physically and emotionally), and in behavior, we are to be unified in our mission to “…make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:19).
The Devil has got to be kicking himself everyday because he made the mistake of crucifying Jesus and now must deal with millions of holy spirit-empowered Christians instead of one man from Galilee. But Satan, who was never one to lose gracefully, has made it his personal mission “…to kill, steal, and destroy…” (John 10:10a) all he can among mankind. And when it comes to Christians, he loves nothing better than to wreak havoc in relationships. He loves to see churches separate, to see people divided, and especially to hear Christians slander and gossip about one another. He knows that if he can divide the Body from within, he prevents us from being effective outside the Church.
So, what does the Bible say about gossip? Gossip is certainly not a new idea, and Solomon wrote powerfully about it.
Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.
The Hebrew word for “gossip” means to murmur, which can be summed up with one word, “indistinct.” When we gossip, we paint a picture of someone that is very unclear. We usually hand that picture to someone else (in the form of gossip) who generally does little to clear it up. In fact, more often than not, the person you talk to will add a smudge or two to the picture before handing it off to someone else, and so on. The image painted of the person is quite often very distinguishable from the original, yet people believe it to be true, never once questioning how hazy it has become. This brings up a very important point about communication, which is:
If you hear something about someone that you are not certain is true, always be mature enough to go to the person in question and ask him or her to directly clarify the issue at hand. For more on clear communication, I encourage you to read our Communication Agreement.
My space is limited, but I feel compelled to comment on something that I have seen, and that is people’s tendency to pick out negative aspects about someone else and then talk about them with others rather than the person himself. Need me to break that down a little for you? I see people “ranking” themselves and thinking that they are somehow “cooler” then someone else. When I was in high school, I did my fair share of that, and I wish now that somebody had taught me the love of Christ back then so I could have seen each believer as a son or daughter of the Most High and not elevated myself over another person. We should have an accepting and loving attitude toward everyone, and although you need not become best friends with everyone, you may be surprised at what you gain by seeing people through Christ’s eyes.
Lastly, be filled with grace, both toward the person you hear gossiping and the person being spoken about. Take it from a judgmental person, it pays to give people the benefit of the doubt. Remember that we are to be peacemakers and to work toward forgiveness and reconciliation. In such a process there is no room for something as ugly as gossip. When you hear someone gossiping, you can interrupt it with a simple request that they stop, and encourage them to go to the person in question and clarify if what they heard is true. Remember, we are called to be a unified body that shines forth the light of Christ, and gossip only dims that light.
My name is Gossip.
I am a direct descendant of the father of lies.
I have no respect for justice.
I maim without killing.
I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cunning and malicious and I gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted, the more I am believed.
My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become.
I am nobody’s friend.
Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same.
I topple governments and wreck marriages.
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartaches, and indigestion.
I make innocent people cry in their pillows.
I make headlines and headaches.
Even my name hisses. I am called Gossip.
Before you repeat a story, ask yourself:
Is it true?
Is it harmless?
Is it necessary?
If it isn’t, why repeat it?