Psst! Don't Tell Anyone...But...
Jono's post prompted me to write about the tongue.
Isn't it funny how when you're in a relationship, everybody seems to have their own ideas about what you should or shouldn't be doing, and instead of talking to you about it, they talk behind your backs! Stories seem to take on a life of their own, and things that aren't true get passed on and around until a fully distorted and factually untrue story finally gets back to you.
Well I'm pretty hacked off about this kind of behaviour, as it should not be seen in Christian circles. Gossip, and slander should be expected in non-Christian circles, but here in the church, they seem to be more common than outside the church.
What is gossip?
Gossip is the spreading of a malicious report about somebody. Oftentimes gossip is actually true, but by passing it on, we could be damaging the person involved. God's word demonstrates how bad gossip is. In Proverbs 11:9, we see that gossip can be used to destroy others. In Proverbs we see that a true friend does not gossip. There are also a couple of specific warnings to women in the New Testament telling them they must not gossip.
So what do we do if somebody tells us a delicious piece of gossip? We should not pass it on. But instead, we must reprimand the person who has brought the gossip to us, and tell them to talk to the person they are gossiping about. If you are concerned by what you have heard about the person, go and see that person, and talk to them about what you have heard.
It's a simple biblical and exceedingly obvious principle, that when you are discussing issues in a person's life, you should keep the issue to as few people as possible. The less that know about something, the easier it is to deal with pastorally.
What is slander?
Slander is slightly different from gossip, in that the story that is being passed on is a story that is actually not true. I personally have been the victim of this recently, and it is not very nice at all. How on earth can a story that is not true be passed around? Well there are many reasons for this. What may have started out as a bit of gossip has been exaggerated, and retold so many times with embellishments that it no longer represents the original story. Or perhaps somebody has overheard a conversation they weren't involved in, and misheard the context and passed it on as gospel truth. Sometimes it can also be done with a malicious motive - to hurt another person.
In 1 Peter 2:1, we are commanded to rid ourselves of all kinds of slander. In Colossians 3:8, Paul gives the same command. These are just a few passages that deal with slander. But as Christians, we shouldn't need hundreds of passages for us to make the choice of obedience. God is dishonoured when we gossip or slander others, so we must not do it.
So what do we do if someone is slandering someone else? Once again the first rule is not to pass it on. You may think that someone really needs to know. You may think that you can add the phrase "I heard this but I'm not sure it's true" to what you are saying, but there is no excuse. We must reprimand the person who has slandered someone else, and tell them to talk to the person they have slandered. If we are worried about what we have heard, we should talk to the person involved and tell them what rumour is being passed around.
What we humorously refer to as the church grapevine, or gossip mill, is not something we should be amused by. Gossip and slander are things that the Lord hates, and we should hate them too. I know it's hard - I struggle, you struggle - we all struggle with juicy bits of gossip we want to pass on - but we must do what is right.
1. Let gossip or slander stop with you.
2. Challenge the gossip and the slanderer.
3. Talk to the victim of gossip and slander.