This was a letter of instruction I wrote for my church. I felt that others may gain from it as well.
19 He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip. [Pro 20:19 NASB]
20 For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances; [2Co 12:20 NASB]
Over the holidays a beloved sister has shared with me that she has been horribly been injured through gossip. Her pain is very real and has damaged her greatly. This causes me great sorrow of heart and mind.
Because of that I wanted to remind each of us of the danger of gossip. To ask the Lord to help us make sure that we are speaking carefully and prayerfully when we speak about others. To always be “loyal to the absent” and never say anything about another person that we would not say if they were in the room.
What is gossip? The Hebrew terms translated by our word “gossip” literally mean to have a wide-open and active mouth. This would be speaking without a filter or with well thought out boundaries of what we should and should not say. It is to have verbal vomit.
The goal of gossip is to demonstrate to whoever hears the story that we are better and brighter than the one we are describing and talking about. It is to pass judgment on their actions as not being wise or worthy of respect. Gossip at its roots is an expression of self-righteousness. It does not produce any good even if at the end we attempt to baptize it with “let us pray”.
The Apostle Paul tells us that gossip can be fueled by attitudes of jealousy, anger, desire to hurt another’s reputation, as well as an arrogant self-righteous point of view. So gossip is the fruit of wrong attitudes in our heart. It is a symptom of a deeper spiritual struggle with another person. To gossip about another person is to not love them.
So this year in 2015 let us pray for God to free us from gossip as a congregation.
How can we do this?
• Be very careful telling stories about other people that place them in a bad light. Speak often of the virtues of others but not of their vices.
• If a person has hurt you go to them privately and don’t share with anyone outside of counselors and pastors who are to keep such matters confidential. But even here only go to them to get help on handling the problem and not to speak a great deal about the circumstances or condemn the person.
• Gossip is not less gossip if it is true. When the intention is to injure the reputation of another and get others to think less of them, then gossip has occurred. Let all of our conversations be aimed at encouragement, up building the reputation of others, and expression of true love.
• We must think before we speak. There must be clear boundaries in our heart and mind about what we will say about a person when they are brought up in a conversation.
• If we feel a conversation has turned in the direction of gossip we can say, “why don’t we change the topic. I think we are getting negative.” Gossip cannot survive without an audience.
• Seek purposely to praise any person who is mentioned in a conversation. Think of the most positive virtue or attribute and insert that into the conversation. Positive affirmations of the God like qualities in a person normally spoil the environment in which gossip can thrive.
The worst part about gossip is that it does not express the gospel. The gospel has ended the just “accusations” against God’s people that could be made and has placed us without condemnation before the throne of God. The suffering of Christ Jesus on the cross has paid for and purified us from the worst of our moral failings. If we are not condemned before the throne of Christ then surely we should be free of condemnation in conversations here on earth. All of our words about others need to be seasoned with mercy, compassion, and grace. The gospel should govern the words of our mouth in which we are ready to confess our own sins and only confess the value and worth of others publically.
Now there are times when courts and people in official positions still have to bring judgment on moral matters. But these proceedings aim at the need of establishing justice, bringing about reconciliation, and promoting the common good. They are governed by many rules of evidence and protection of everyone involved.
Gossip has no high and noble purpose. It is part of the problem not a solution. It makes communities emotionally and spiritually sick. It is a cancer and eats at the body of Christ.
So let us pray that God will grant that we will avoid gossip this New Year.
Ask God to forgive us for the gossip we have participated in during the 2014.
Purposely speak of the value and virtue of others, especially those who may have offended or hurt you. Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you.
Read James 3 and pray it back to God. Personalize it in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to make it something that you are reminded about in every conversation.
2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. … 5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. … 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. [James 3:2, 5-6, 8-10 NASB]
Lord, help us to become a congregation free of gossip, slander, self-righteousness, and pride. Lord, move among us that we may protect the unity you have given us in the Holy Spirit and teach us to love each other as you have loved us. May the world, see in us a beloved community of grace and peace. Lord, help us to become an example of your gospel in how we speak with each other. Grant us true repentance regarding gossip and allow every word we speak to be one of grace and mercy. Amen