Protecting God's Reputation: Gossip
Protecting God's Reputation
Gossip: Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true. 2. Rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature. 3. A person who spreads intimate or private rumors or facts.
There were three pastors who were sharing together. The first one said, "I have a serious problem with lust." The second one said, "I hear you, brother. I have a terrible problem with greed and stealing." The third one said, "I have a problem with gossip and I can't wait to get out of here and tell someone about you two!"
As funny as that Joke is, in reality, gossip is not funny. Gossip destroys relationships, reputations, and sometimes lives. It leaves a person naked, venerable and isolated. It is a public act of violence where assailants take turns kicking and punching their blindfolded and bound victim's reputation. I am ashamed to say that I have foolishly been a participant in these public beatings. I have seen first hand the devastation that my foolish conversations have caused. I have also been the victim. I have had to fight off the poison of bitterness that sets in after I discovered that I had been the subject of whispers. There is nothing funny about gossip! It is a poisonous snake that slithers in the shadows undetected until it strikes its victims. It is a cowardly act that viciously stabs its targets in the back.
Psalms 141: 3-4 Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies.
The truth hurts but gossip kills. Someone once said "If its the truth it not gossip." I disagree, whether it is the truth or a lie, when we pass on harmful information about someone we are participating in their demise. We are aiding in the death of their reputation. In the moment, we often don't see our words as gossip or we don't realize how destructive our conversations can be. When confronted, we may be shocked and claim ignorance. Most times we justify ourselves by saying that we were simply expressing concern. If a man pulls the trigger on the gun that kills his brother, his brother is dead regardless of the motivation. He is dead weather he was loved or hated. Gossip kills spiritually and emotionally just as surely as a bullet kills physically. The damage is done whether it is the truth or not. We all have done this evil thing at some time in our lives. Knowingly or unknowingly, regardless of our intent, we have aided in the demise of someone's reputation.
Psalm 23:3 “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
Psalm 148:13 The Name of the Lord is to be exalted above all Heaven and Earth
For the Christian, our reputation reflects on Christ Jesus, despite of what we may think of a Christian brother, by protecting his reputation, we are protecting the Lord's reputation as well. Everything we do reflects on His name sake. So it follows that we must guard our reputation by being mindful of our every word and deed. Not for the sake of our pride, but for Christ's sake. The Old Testament doesn't use the word reputation, instead, it uses the phrase "Name sake" or "The Name of The Lord." Psalm 113:2 says Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. When we conduct our selves in a unbecoming manner, or air our fellow Christian's dirty laundry, we are bringing a reproach to Christ's name, making it difficult for the Lord's reputation to be praised. We as Christians must strive to protect each others reputation just as vigorously as we protect our own. Not only because we love our fellow believers, but because we love our heavenly father as well.
People gossip about a lot of different things, some more harmful than others. Opinions, unconfirmed actions, and sometimes down right lies get spread with out conviction. However , Within the church, gossip is most often the result of someone not having the courage to confront the accused. Instead they speak to others for "counsel" or "wisdom" or perhaps "prayer". It is here the seeds of gossip gets planted. One person speaks to another and before you know it, the issue gets blown out of proportion, destroying the individual's reputation and bringing a reproach to the name of the Lord. Scripture gives very clear instructions to follow when we see a thing first hand or hear something about someone that is disconcerting and harmful. Matthew 18:15 mandates that we first go to our brother or sister without involving others.
Dealing With Sin Within The Church
In the following, I found it most helpful to put my self in the place of "the brother who has sinned." By doing so I was able to find grace and better understand the feelings of those who end up on the front page of the National Enquirer. I am not speaking to anyone in particular. When I use the word "you" I am speaking to people in general. My goal is to give clear biblical steps for restitution with minimal collateral damage. By following biblical steps we will protect the individual's reputation, the name of the Lord, and offer the best hope fore repentance. If implemented in the right spirit, you may even strengthen your relationship with your brother.
Matthew 18:15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
Dealing with sin in your brother/sister
Step 1. Lovingly Address The Sin.
Confrontation is difficult, we all hate doing it, however there are times when it must be done. If you love me, you will confront me privately and gently, without involving others.In the moment you hear about it. The longer you delay, the harder it will be. When done with the right spirit, you are actually showing me you genuinely care.
Remember that there may be an alternate explanation for a person's behavior. By addressing your concerns with him and him alone, you will not plant unsubstantiated ideas in the minds of others which lead to gossip and hard feelings. Keeping your concerns confidential will also show the individual that you love and respect him enough to guard his reputation.
If someone comes to you with concerns about another person. Your first question should be " Have you discussed your concerns with that person?" If not, then don't let them continue with their dialog. Instruct them to go and follow Matthew 18:15. Do everyone a favor, don't entertain gossip, stop it in its tracks.
Matthew 18:16 "But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."
What to do when the Christian brother/sister refuses to turn away from their sin. Step 2. Take someone with you and together lovingly address their sin.
If after you confront me, I continue in my sin, You can then involve another person. It is vital that you select someone who knows me well and loves me as much or more then you do. Those closest to me will have the greatest impact. Here again, guard my reputation, do not speak of your concerns to anyone other then the ones who will take part in the intervention effort (One or two people) The goal is repentance, I respond best when I see you really care about me. I may be able to ignore 1 person, but If two or three people see the problem, it will be difficult for me to brush you off.
Matthew 18:17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
Cutting ties with a unrepentant Christian:
Step 3: Tell the Church.
There comes a time when you have done all you can do. If I refuse to listen to those closest to me it is unlikely that I will listen to the Church as a whole. But you can always hope.
Notice this third step has two parts, confrontation and removal. At some point you have to say to me" I am sorry but I can no longer consider you as my Christian brother. The sin has been established and there is no sign of repentance. " Even here, you must cut ties with regret and bitter sorrow, showing me that this action is killing you. Always leave room for repentance. If done correctly, I will leave feeling I have truly lost friends and loved ones. If done in anger by critical and judgmental people, I will be glad to go.
The truth is, there is no easy way to deal with sin. No matter how hard you try. The best we can do is lessen the pain by following God's Word. It is rare to have to enact step 3, steps 1 and two most often accomplish the goal. That is, when done in love.
I recognize that these are some of the most difficult scriptures in the bible. Their application requires great discernment, prayer, courage, and humility. When these steps are followed in the wrong spirit, the collateral damage is appalling and cause more harm to the individual and the Lord's Name than does the original offense. We must first examine our own works then we will approach unrepentant Christians with humility.
Gal 6:1-5 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load.
Whether you are a Pastor sharing your concerns with your associate pastors or board members, or a new believer who is shocked and confused by the conduct of an elder, all must guard against gossip. Follow Matthew 18, it is the place to start anytime we have concerns or offenses. In most things, we need to mind our own business. Everyone is at different places in their Christian walk. We don't want to be guilty poking our noses into other peoples affairs. Yet, on occasion, something comes up that requires action. When that happens, consider your brother's feelings, put your self in his shoes and act in the manner you would want to be treated. Protect the individual and the name of the Lord. As the old saying goes, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." Good advise. In this way we will set a guards over our mouths without forcing God to do it for us.
Your Brother in Christ