Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gossip – How Do We Respond To That Which God Hates? Part 2 The Responsibility of the Receiver

This is a continuation of my conversation with “Sally” from last week’s article and the final part of my series on gossip.

Me: Sally, Father has given me an assignment in this situation, too, but it isn’t this family, it is you. He says that the one who speaks negatively about others does so because he/she is so full of him/herself that he/she is without restraint (Proverbs 10:18)! I’m concerned because there are consequences for this, Sally.

“Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure”

“The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment” (Proverbs 10:21)!

Sally: (Tearfully) I can see that I’ve been resistant to do what God desires because of issues in my own heart. I really need to spend some time alone with Him about this.

Me: Sally, do you realize that my response to what you’ve shared is out of love for you and this family? Love is the answer, my friend. While gossip is an outlet for hatred, it is love that covers all transgressions (Proverbs 10:12). Our greatest motivation for not putting others in bad light is our obedience to the Law of Christ – we must love others as we want to be loved (James 4:11).

If I were to participate in gossiping about this family, I would be making an alliance with Satan rather than God, by adding sin to sin (Isaiah 30:1). Instead, gossip is a vile sin which needs to be exposed (Ephesians 5:11). I am unwilling to go to the family which you are referring to because that is your assignment; not mine. Besides, while his/her intentions may be good, even the one who repeats hurtful gossip back to the one being condemned, rather than confronting the slanderer, participates in gossip. The one originally speaking the gossip should be corrected and encouraged to be reconciled with the one whom they are gossiping about.

The most compelling lesson about uncovering sin in someone else's life occurred when a group of puffed-up religious rulers shoved an adulterous woman at the feet of Jesus while he was teaching in the temple courts:

"The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, 'Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?' This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:3-7).

Having our own flaws illuminated makes shaming someone else much less appealing. One by one they dropped their rocks and slithered away.

Is our ultimate goal to help restore prodigals into a redemptive relationship with Jesus, or do we have a hidden agenda to elevate ourselves by condemning those around us?


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gossip - How Do We Respond to that Which God Hates? - Part 1 - The Responsibility of the Gossiper

When someone shares with us a “bit of news” about another we must first consider whether or not the gossiper claims to be a follower of Christ:

• Expecting a non-believer to imitate the love of Jesus is futile. However, we do have to be careful not to get drawn into the sin of gossip with them. “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence” (Psalms 39:1).
• Those who call themselves children of God however must be held to the righteousness of Christ. “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).

The golden rule here is to “be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; … Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4: 5-6).

A few years ago, “Sally” came to me about a family in our fellowship whom she believed was sinning against God. While “Sally” may have been genuinely concerned, I could tell by her tone and body language that her heart was also critical toward them. I believe that my response to her “compassionate gossiping” answers many of the questions often asked about how to respond in such a situation:

Me: Sally, have you addressed your concerns with this family?

Sally: No, I could never do that!

Me: Why do you believe that it is necessary for me to know about this? What are you wanting me to do with this information?

Sally: I don’t know. Something needs to be done and I thought you could help.

Me: Sally, until you shared it with me, it could very well be that no one else knew about what God has shown you regarding this family. He has shown you because He wants you to be His partner in this! Rather than gossiping or thinking negatively about them, He has given you the honor to do something to help them!

Sally: Me? What can I do?

Me: Let’s read Matthew 18:15-17 and see what Father suggests:

"If your fellow believer sins against you, go and tell him in private what he did wrong. If he listens to you, you have helped that person to be your brother or sister again. But if he refuses to listen, go to him again and take one or two other people with you. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, then treat him like a person who does not believe in God."

Sally, we must speak first to the one about whom we are concerned before mentioning our concern to anyone else. Otherwise we “grieve the holy spirit with our slander”
(Ephesians 4:30).

Sally: But it isn’t that they have sinned against me.

Me: Let’s read Galatians 6:1-3.

"If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ."
Would you say that both examples encourage straightforward, but loving dialogue about ungodly behavior?

Sally: Yes, but I don’t think I could ever address them about this!

(Knowing this would reveal Sally’s true heart, I proceeded)

Me: Sally, since you are so concerned, let’s pray right now about this family. Why don’t you start!

Sally: I’m so upset with them that I can’t even pray for them!

Me: So what is the real reason why you shared this with me?

Sally: I guess I really need to think about that; don’t I?

Me: Sally, It isn’t uncommon to discover that this type of “assignment” is as much about ourselves as it is about others. Completing this work will not only benefit this family, but you, as well. Do you realize that one of Satan’s chief goals is to bring division among God’s family? By harboring resentment, sitting in judgment of and thinking and speaking negatively about others we fall into the devil’s scheme. You have a decision to make, Sally. Whose team do you want to be on in this situation, God’s or Satan’s?

Sally: I’ve never heard it put quite like that! This conversation sure hasn’t unfolded the way that I thought it would. I came here hoping you could do something about this family; instead, my own sin is being exposed. Ouch!

Next week I will focus on the responsibility of the one receiving the gossip.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

It Isn’t Gossip If It’s True! Or Is It?

When addressing someone who is gossiping, a classic response is, “I’m not gossiping. It’s true!” This common misconception calls for a clear understanding of what “gossip” truly means. Gossip is defined as “Idle, or malicious talk about others.”

Gossip exists whenever we talk about others
in less than a favorable way.

Its antonym, “slander” means “malicious talk; to spread damaging information; to defame; to speak ill of.” “Devil” comes from the Greek word "diabollos" which means a slanderer, or accuser, and directly refers to Satan. Speaking critically about another is functioning as a cohort to the “slanderer/accuser” (Rev. 12:10)!

Do we not realize that it is an evil spirit of pride
which broadcasts negative “news” about others?
It is a self-righteous hypocrite who speaks words of destruction.

Such talk affects not only our relationship with others, but more importantly with Father! Jesus tells this story:

“Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer to himself: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income."

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14).

Notice that the prayers of the self-righteous Pharisee were ultimately to himself. Father will not even listen to such perversion!

We must realize that arrogant, boastful, slanderous gossips are in the same league as murderers and those practicing other depraved behaviors! According to Romans 1:28-32, although we may know God’s righteous decrees, those who do such things deserve death and will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken (Matthew 12:36)!

Do you ever wonder if the one who is gossiping to you also gossips about you? It’s foolish to think that they don’t! On the other hand, if a person shares words of love and kindness about others, we can believe that they have a trustworthy heart! “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Prov. 11:13).

“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 (Ephesians 4:29).

Gossip often masquerades as “concern” for others,
but any person who is genuinely concerned,
will follow God’s Word (Mathew 18:15-20)
and will privately and lovingly address the person
at the source to express his/her concern.

It is “a perverse man (who) stirs up dissension, and a gossip (who) separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28)! I’m convinced that as children of the Most High God, His Spirit prompts us when we are or another person is gossiping. Any hint of disrespect will set off an alarm indicating that the information being shared could tarnish the character, name or reputation of another person!

Gossip is a seething disease of corruption and is used to verbally abuse those whom we are called to love, encourage and forgive! “With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor” (Proverbs 11:9)! No wonder it is equal to murder in Father’s eyes!

How do we break the damaging cycle of gossip? I’ll address that next week.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is Your Vision as Good as You Think?

Of all the types of injuries that I witnessed in 20+ years of practice as a trauma nurse, I’d have to say that a penetrating wound to the eye is one of the most disturbing. I can’t even begin to describe the fear this injury creates for the patient and the challenge it presents to the nurse! The pain is typically excruciating and the patient often doesn’t want anyone to even come close to it! For the inexperienced nurse, however, the first reaction is to do anything to remove the foreign body in order to relieve the patient. It must be learned that this can lead to further damage and possibly permanent complications!

Recently, Gary and I felt led by the Lord to confront a brother and sister about some issues in their lives that were hurting our relationship with them. While the issues have been long standing, we realized that we needed to wait on the Lord for His timing, His direction and His purification in us lest we’d create more injury to and potentially permanent complications in our relationship with them. We certainly don’t want that!

While it may be very uncomfortable to be affected by sin and faults in others,
trying to address that before dealing with our own hearts
is not only hypocritical, it can be disastrous!
In our flesh, we all tend to look upon the sins and faults of others,
while overlooking our own.

However, we are warned strongly about this:

How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye (Luke 6:42).

I’ve been in more conversations than I want to count in which one minute the talking head is building him/herself up and the next minute he/she is chopping someone else down. This simply breaks my heart and I can only listen for so long before I am compelled to intervene!

“There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Although we may never commit murder or molest a child, this does not make us any less guilty. Do we not realize that whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10)!

In the old days when we were more tribal, the only way to remove someone from our lives was by murdering them. Legally it was by exile or execution. Now we can ostracize them without it looking bad on us. In fact, we can make it look downright righteous. – David Hayward

Until we come to realize that being a sinner is a type of “species” that we are born into and not something we do, we will never have the love and compassion toward others which God desires for us to have. If we don’t get this, we really don’t understand what Jesus accomplished on our behalf! We are all guilty! We all come from the same “genus,” known as sinners, who deserve eternity in hell (Romans 6:23)!

I will never forget the day when this truth first pierced my heart. Previously, I was aware of my sin and that those sins hurt me, others and most importantly God. However, I just couldn’t grasp that I had done anything which deserved eternal punishment! One day, seemingly out of the blue, this truth hit me like a ton of bricks: The reason that I sin is that my bloodline is a “species” which is infected with sin. It is not what I do, but what I am that makes me a sinner. It is my nature; which must be put to death!

Some might say, “Well, I do my best to follow the 10 Commandments! At least I haven’t molested a child! At least I haven’t murdered! Those people deserve to go straight to hell!” To this we must respond, “No matter how virtuous we may try to live, when we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags to Father (Isaiah 64:6 NLT). I have nothing worthwhile to offer Him, and neither do you!”

Very few of us can say that we come anywhere near to being as dedicated to Jesus as the Apostle Paul, yet, even he realized this great truth... “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--and I am the worst of them all” (1Timothy 1:15)!

The infection experienced by those in the effected “species” is systemic, disturbing every cell in our body, including our vision! Patching-up the spiritual eye with self-effort will not help. The infection will remain! Instead, the whole being must be put to death and buried! The only way to effectively nurse someone else who’s suffering a penetrating wound to the eye is to be given new eyes!

This is such a serious issue that I plan to address it in a series. “Keep your eyes peeled” for a continuation in my next article.