Have you ever thought church-going people should be perfect? Or at the very least, they should be more perfect than those who don't attend church? Have you ever felt like the church is full of people who gossip, lie, or cheat? Guess what? You are correct! Christians are not perfect (far from it!), and we are all learning while we are on this earthly journey. Hopefully we can offer each other grace as we all learn to turn from those sins.
A friend of mine was hurt this week by someone at his church. Without getting into details, the hurt was caused in part by gossip. Gossip can be an interesting topic because while we recognize it in its most obvious form, it exists in endless forms that we don't always categorize as gossip. It can be just as destructive though, and the end result is strife. Strife within the church is as deadly as poison.
For example, if I were to come to you and say that "I heard Sally is cheating on her husband", you would have no problem recognizing that as gossip. It may be true, or it may be false, but by me spreading it I am definitely gossiping. We hopefully do our best not to take part in this type of obvious gossip (we all know the Bible tells us not to), but what about the more subtle types?
What if I came to you and said "I'm concerned about Marion's marriage; please pray for her." Is that gossip? Or how about "I'm unhappy with the preacher's last sermon." Is that gossip? Or "I saw Harry at the doctor's office today; I wonder what could be wrong." Or "Bless her heart, she did that thing again." Is that gossip?
Answers to that question may vary. Sure, sometimes when we say certain things they come from a genuine concern. But, truthfully, at other times our motives are not pure. We might be trying to advance our own positions, we might be clinging too hard to our own ministry at the expense of another, or we might be trying to get revenge. Other times, we might just be expressing a negative thought without realizing the far-reaching consequences it might have for someone else.
So here's the deal. Let's not gossip. Let's choose not to be negative. If we don't have something nice to say, let's not say anything at all. Actually, let's take it one step farther... if we don't have something nice to say, FIND SOMETHING NICE TO SAY. There are always positives to point out if we look for them. Any idiot can point out the negatives (and they often do). Ephesians 4:29 tells us, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." Let's be known as "good-finders"!
A key factor in this is to take our issues to an offending person directly. We shouldn't discuss them with anyone who is not directly involved in the situation. I really hate to find out that someone has talked about me behind my back or complained about me without giving me the first chance to rectify the situation. I'm sure others feel the same way. If we respect and love each other as brothers and sisters of faith, we owe each other that much. We should never, ever walk down the hall of the church and hear a negative word spoken about anyone else. Ever. That is not love; it is gossip. We can, and should, do better. And let's be quick to give grace during the times we screw it up.