"I'm concerned for _____________ because...""I'm having a problem with ______________ because of such and such. What do you think?"
"We need to pray for ________________ because they've ..."
"I heard 'such and such' about _______________. Do you know if it's true?"
Each of these statements I've said innumerable times over my life. Most of the time, I felt justified in saying what I said. I usually had 'valid' reasons and could defend my reasons. Almost always, I felt there was a higher good that I was trying to achieve. Or, I was so emotionally upset about something that this became my automatic response.
But a friend of mine shared with me a definition of gossip that is probably one of the clearest I've ever heard:
Gossip is to speak (behind someone's back) in a way
which raises questions or doubts about another person or their character.This definition strips away all aspects of whether what you are saying is true, what your motives for saying it are, and what 'greater good' you may think you are achieving.
It is gossip. And the Bible has a lot to say about gossip. The bottom line: it is sin. There is no sugar coating, no 'ends justifies the means', no wrapping the action in words like compassion or concern. It is sin--and sin destroys.
Sin destroys your character. Sin destroys relationships. Sin destroys the koinonia of a church (see my 10/30/13 blog posting). Sin destroys the unity of a church. Sin destroys a church.
Is this kind of talk ever appropriate. Yes--but only when done by individuals engaged in a Matthew 18 church discipline process. Other than that--all other instances are sin. Period.
I think back on my own life and realize how easily I succumbed to this sin. Many years ago, I was part of a church where many of the leaders actively engaged in regularly 'skewering the pastor' with their friends, in 'parking lot meetings', etc. It is to my own shame that I became part of this--whether through active participation or non-confrontation of other's sin. This became such a regular part of church life that the church eventually split. [Note: Many years later, I asked forgiveness of this pastor for being a part of this.]
In our New Member's Class in our church, we stress that, according to Romans , we should put the maximum effort into peace and unity in the church (but not at the expense of truth and purity). This means that ANY attitude that causes disunity—is sin. If any attitude or action destroys the fellowship, it destroys the church. There are plenty of verses to back this up. [1 Cor. 1:10; 14:33; 2 Tim. 2:14, 23; Ps. 133:1; Prov. 17:14; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 1:27; 2:1-3; 4:2; Col. 2:2; 3:13-15; 1 Pet. 3:8; John 13:34-35; Rom. 12:16-18; 15:5-6]
My encouragement to you is to rethink every word you speak about others. I think you will be surprised as to how much of it is really gossip! I know I am when I look at my own behavior!
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Eph. 4:29)
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