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.


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