Recently, Dennis sent me an article on church gossip to read. In the article, it admitted the difficulty with defining such a term as gossip, but focused on the fact that it was “inappropriate communication” and the truth of the gossip was irrelevant to its sharing.
Gossip, maybe better understood as slanderous speech, is destructive. It ruins organizations. It topples churches. It severs relationships. And it’s easy to understand why. When one person gossips, they betray a lack of love for the individual about whom they speak. When one hears about gossip said about them, it causes them to stop trusting others, especially the one who is sharing the gossip. It also, as it is spread from mouth to ear, causes a lack of trust among the sharers, because we all know if someone is willing to slander someone else, they are just as willing to slander us.
Jesus said about His church, “the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16.18). But oftentimes, gossip does locally what the gates of Hades cannot universally. The Spirit said through James that our speech can be like a spark that ignites forest fires, it can be a poison that destroys lives, and is like a wild beast that cannot be tamed. Our speech is incredibly dangerous and can poison the relationships within a church (cf. 3.1-12).
But lest we get too comfortable, consider the many ways in which we can engage in gossip and destroy relationships. Sometimes we gossip by what we don’t say. If we hear some disparaging news about others, and we do not correct the false information that is tearing someone down, we are allowing gossip to prevail and damage others.
Sometimes we gossip by what we mistakenly say, and then refuse to humble ourselves to correct our mistake. Often times gossip is not intentional. We can slander by sharing bad news. When we learn that our bad news is not truly bad, shouldn’t we correct that mistake so others can be better understood?
Sometimes we gossip by using the wrong words. We might mean to say one thing, but upon choosing the wrong words (or maybe the wrong manner in which we say something), we give people the wrong, and possibly slanderous, impression.
Regardless of the cause or manner of gossip, the fix to gossip is simple.
1. Speak in truths.
2. Speak with love.
3. Speak with the good of others as a priority.
4. Speak carefully according to the need of the moment.
5. Talk about others in the way you feel God would talk about them. He loves them so much He sent Jesus to die for their souls. If He cares that much about them, can we not give them consideration and the benefit of kind words?
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4.6).