Guest Article: Have You Heard?

The following article was written by Jon Zens in 2008. Three things to keep in mind:

1. Most Christians never realize or understand the despicable, sub-human act that gossip and slander are in the eyes of God until it happens to them.

2. Zens is using the biblical definitions for “gossip” and “slander,” not the modern, American legal definitions. They are quite different.

3. Some people have wrongly used the biblical teaching against gossip and slander to contradict Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18. For instance, if a person is sinning against others and doesn’t stop after being corrected in private by one person, then in private by two or more people, and then corrected by an entire body of believers, it’s not gossip or slander to make that person’s continuing sin public if they refuse to stop (repent). It’s also not gossip to go to a police officer and report a crime. Zens does talk about the Matthew 18 principle in the article, but his point is that many Christians skip steps 1 and 2 and go straight to 3. And this also is sin.

Have You Heard? The Plague of Gossip & Slander in the Body of Christ

by Jon Zens

Bob Mumford once said, “The Christian army is the only one that shoots its wounded.”

Regrettably, I have observed his statement to be all too true.

As long as I’ve been a Christian I have watched friends and their families undergo untold pain and hurt because of the incredible power of gossip and slander. Years ago we were traveling and after speaking in a church a brother came up to me and said, “I heard that you had quit teaching in churches and took up potato farming.” How and why such a rumor got started is anybody’s guess! This rumor was fairly innocuous, but imagine the untold harm done by vicious judgments on the life and character of others.

In this article, I would like to address this issue head-on. My hope is to raise the awareness of my brothers and sisters in Christ on this matter, so that we all will better follow the Lord’s teachings regarding our speech about and actions toward others.

What exactly is gossip?

Gossip is second or third hand information that someone dumps on you without your prior consent and without the consent of the person being gossiped about. Gossip can be true, partially true, or completely false. It can be motivated by good intentions, but it’s always negative personal information about another that puts them in a bad light.

What is slander?

The Bible defines slander as accusatory speech that is injurious to a person’s name and reputation. It’s essentially character assassination . . . the act of smearing someone. Gossip and slander color people’s perceptions of an individual unfairly and unjustly without their knowledge or consent. One major component in both of these sins is that the person being torn down is out of the loop. Talebearers usually avoid speaking directly to the one they are demeaning.

I will admit that I have listened to gossip in the past. At the time, the thought never occurred to me how deeply a person and their family could be hurt when someone attacks their character without their knowledge or consent.

It seems that most people who spread gossip never think about this. Nor do they realize that what they’re doing is engaging in gossip and slander. (Some people, of course, who intend to smear another human being know exactly what they’re doing. Many Christians, however, naively spread gossip without realizing what sort of destruction it brings in the lives of others.)

For this reason, I have raised a standard in my life. To the best of my ability, I always evaluate people based on my first-hand experience with them, not on what someone else tells me about them – for the obvious reason that second-hand information can be very misleading and inaccurate (sad to say, I haven’t always lived up to this standard in the past).

Gossip and slander violate the Lord’s own maxim: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” If anyone has suffered the agony of being gossiped about, they understand the force of those words. No one wishes to be the subject of gossip and slander. There are few things so hurtful.

One of the problems is that gossip and slander seem innocent and they often come to us subtly. One doesn’t have to be operating in malice to be guilty of gossip and slander. Again, the motive is irrelevant. Spreading negative or shameful information about another person is contrary to walking in love. Love “thinks no evil” and “believes the best of others” (1 Cor. 13).

What does gossip and slander usually sound like? It usually begins with something like, “Did you hear about such and such . . .” The rest of it goes on to put an individual in a shameful or negative light. A.W. Tozer had these powerful words of advice about the sin of gossip:

Never pass anything on about anybody else that will hurt him. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The talebearer has no place in God’s favor. If you know something that would hinder or hurt the reputation of one of God’s children, bury it forever. Find a little garden out back — a little spot somewhere — and when somebody comes around with an evil story, take it out and bury it and say, “Here lies in peace the story about my brother.” God will take care of it. “With what judgment you judge, you shall be judged.”

If you want God to be good to you, you are going to have to be good to His children. You say, “But that’s not grace.” Well, grace gets you into the kingdom of God. That is unmerited favor. But after you are seated at the Father’s table, He expects to teach you table manners. And He won’t let you eat unless you obey the etiquette of the table. And what is that? The etiquette of the table is that you don’t tell stories about the brother who is sitting at the table with you — no matter what his denomination, or nationality, or background (from Five Vows for Spiritual Power).

So what should we do if we hear a rumor about someone else?

If we are in conversation with a person and they begin to express words that put another brother or sister in a bad light, we have a responsibility to interrupt such speech and exhort them to speak directly with the person they are criticizing. If an email containing gossip is sent to us, we should disregard the content and ask the sender to go to the one being spoken against.

In all circumstances, as much as lies with us, we should not be a party to gossip and we should confront those spreading evil speech. We must not forget that matters of concern about others must be confirmed with witnesses (Matt.18:16), and others should only be notified if the person refuses to repent – which means they refuse to stop their sinning. We sin by entertaining accusations against others that have not been confirmed by witnesses, or that have already been repented of. It is sinful to spread information about the past sins of others when they are already under the blood of Christ.

In addition to the above, we should go to the person being targeted and make them aware of it. We should then ask for them to confirm or correct it. This is the loving thing to do. Think about it: If someone was spreading something negative about you, would you not want to be made aware of it? Again, love treats others the way we wish to be treated.

It’s not good enough to ask the gossiper if they’ve spoken to the person gossiped about. In my experience, oftentimes a person spreading the gossip will say “yes,” but when I’ve tracked down the person being gossiped about, they will deny having had such a conversation. Or the conversation really wasn’t a conversation at all. Nothing can replace going directly to the person being spoken about.

Whenever we hear gossip, we should consider these questions: “Would I want someone talking about me like this? How would my family feel about this? My spouse, my mother, my father, my children, my best friends?” (These thoughts are typically never considered when a person listens to or spreads gossip about another individual.)

Have you ever noticed that speech that tears others down travels like a brush fire, but news of repentance and restoration seems to move along at a snail’s pace? Why is it that we often immediately believe and embrace negative assessments of people, but reports of repentance, change, or the dispelling of a false rumor are met with skepticism? As believers, the exact opposite should be our practice: we should be hesitant to entertain and skeptical of adverse words about others, and quick to rejoice in and embrace news of the dispelling of a rumor or another’s repentance!

Satan’s nature is to accuse. He is called the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12). In fact, the word “Satan” means adversary, and the word “devil” literally means “slanderer.” That should say volumes to us. One sister noted these warning signs of a spirit of accusation:

**Being suspicious of others
**Having bitterness toward others
**Being easily offended without cause
**Having envy and jealousy toward others
**Believing the worst about others
**Exaggerating the offenses of others
**Refusing fellowship with a person after they have changed
**Holding people to their past failures
**Imposing our perfectionism standards on others
**Basing harsh judgments on misunderstandings without seeking clarification
**Judging others for misbehaviors that we are prone to
**Becoming the Holy Spirit for others
**Using others as a scapegoat
**Tearing down others so we look better
**Bringing skeletons out of the closet
**Being unsatisfied with any amount of confession and sorrow from another
(Marsha Fisher, “Accusation,” Be In Health Conference, April 29, 2008, Thomaston GA)

Further, the union of Christ with his people should certainly give us reason for great caution with our words about fellow believers. Paul said in Romans 14:15, “Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.” I think we are also warranted in saying, “Do not by your words destroy your brother or sister for whom Christ died.” It is a very serious matter to hurt anyone in Christ’s little flock (Luke 17:1-4).

A careful reading of the Bible shows the destructive nature of gossip and slander. It says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts” (Prov. 18:8, 26:22). Gossip is likened unto poison that once someone drinks, they cannot get out of their system. And it always separates people. Even close friends and loved ones.

Put another way, gossip not only damages the person being gossiped about, but it also damages the person hearing the gossip, for it causes them to judge the other unfairly.

Consider these texts prayerfully:

“A perverse person stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Prov. 16:28).

“Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down” (Prov. 26:22).

“He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool” (Prov. 10:18).

“Brethren, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it” (James 4:11).

“The tongue has the power of life and death . . . ” (Prov. 18:21).

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all people” (Tit 3:1-2).

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Eph. 4:31).

“Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman” (Psalm. 15:1-3).

In conclusion, the next time you hear a rumor, go to the person being rumored about. And never spread something about another person without talking to them first and having an open mind to hear their heart. Unconfirmed notions about others should not be spread abroad.

In the pursuit of mutual edification and peace, our mouths play a very important role. Our words should be carefully chosen, and designed to build up, not to destroy (Eph. 4:29.31; 5:4; Col. 3:8,16; James 3:10; 1 Pet. 4:11). We must “slander no one” (Tit. 3:2), and be ready always to speak a good word about our brothers and sisters in Christ. In the human realm, words are most often the spark that leads to wars and atrocities, and there is a parallel in the realm of the church, for “if you keep on biting and devouring each other” with hurtful and damaging words, “you will be destroyed by each other” (Gal. 5:15).

May our speech to others and about others be “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph.4:29). — jzens@searchingtogether.org

For Further Reading

Thomas Dubay, “Verbal Contention,” Caring: A Biblical Theology of Community, Dimension Books, 1973, p.184: “Sacred Scripture comes down hard on sins of speech, so hard that it is safe to say that few people indeed manage to come close to living its full message.”

Margaret Foth, “Life is too short . . . to let conflicts go unresolved,” “Life is too short . . . to bear grudges or harbor bitterness,” Life Is Too Short . . . to Miss Today, Zondervan, 1985, pp.75-80, 87-92.

Joyce Huggett, Listening to Others: Hearing Their Hearts, Hodder & Stoughton, 2005. Karen Burton Mains, You Are What You Say: Cure for the Troublesome Tongue, Zondervan, 1988.

John Wesley, The Cure for Evil Speaking (1760).

Related:

Hearing One Side of a Story

Forgotten Words of Jesus

We Have Not So Learned Jesus Christ

An Important Insight from President Obama

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

Misrepresentations

Legalism, License, Liberty, and Lordship

Anyway

Christians Are . . .

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Comments

  1. Sally says

    This is a great article. I’ve been the victim of gossip and slander and so has my husband. It’s true that telling the police about a crime isn’t gossip nor is telling a father in a family about a son who is harming himself or others, but those cases don’t overturn the point of Matthew 18. Too many times people talk about others they don’t know, spread lies or twisted points about them, without ever going to them first to find out the real story. If someone doesn’t stop sinning, after many attempts to correct by many different people who have gone to them firsthand, then it’s time to make their sin public, but even then we should follow what Jesus said about this. I agree that Matthew 7:12 should always guide our decisions. How would we want to be treated if it were us. Unless you or your family have experienced the pain and damage of gossip and slander firsthand, these things aren’t really understood. The Bible is pretty clear on the matter. We all should follow it. Not to do so is sin.

    • says

      Devon: This actually supports the point of Jon’s post. Notice that Paul didn’t name names in his epistles to the churches. Instead, he did so in his private letters to his close coworkers.

      Those weren’t public letters, but private ones that God sovereignly allowed to be made public to the world years later, thus teaching us an important principle.

      Paul also said indicated that he privately rebuked those individuals himself first (e.g., Alexander the Coppersmith). So no, that wasn’t gossip. As Jon’s article points out, the only time a person should be exposed in public for private sin is after the principle of Matthew 18 has been completely exhausted and the person still hasn’t stopped sinning.

  2. says

    Julie, good question. If a person is clearly sinning against God’s people in some way (present, continuous sin – not past sins that have been repented of), those who are being sinned against should go to the sinning person in private first. (We should be careful not to judge someone’s motives for that in itself is a sin.) A clear sin is something that can be demonstrated and that clearly violates Scripture. If the person sinning against others doesn’t heed them, or shows no concern, then a group of people are to go to them privately, face to face, to try to resolve the issue. If the person claims not to be sinning, then arbitrators should be involved (see 1 Cor. 6). This process should continue until there’s no hope at all. If the person still keeps on committing the sin and refuses to stop, then and only then should it be brought to the local church in which that person is involved.

    The Internet is a different thing altogether and each person involved should prayerfully consider how to handle that. The Internet is an open venue for slander and “he said, she said.” There are many cases where a person hasn’t sinned, but others may have been offended by them unintentionally, or imputed evil motives to their hearts, or their expectations were not met, so they go on public attack. Their reaction is one rooted in bitterness. Unfortunately, this happens more than it should. So Christians should tread cautiously here and have a heart full of love and no bitterness at all, and be sure what God is saying. The key thing to be kept in mind at all times is that at every step this question should be answered honestly, openly, and should guide one’s actions: “how would I want to be treated if it were me in the sinning person’s situation?” Love must always guide in whatever one does, especially in making someone’s unrepentent, continuous sin a public matter. A good measure to make sure one is in the right spirit and the Lord is with them in something like this is that making someone’s continuous sin public should come only after all avenues for reconciliation have been exhausted, and making it public hurts us deeply, just as much as it hurts the person who is doing the sinning. Oftentimes this isn’t the case.

    So yes, heavy-handed leaders who use the sin of gossip as a means of intimidating those who under them are way out of line. Those who exercise control over others’ will use any means at their disposal to keep people in line and restrain them from questioning those in authority. Question-askers are often labeled as “rebellious” or as “gossips.” This illustrates how even a serious matter like gossip can be taken out of context by controlling leaders and used for maintaining their upper-hand. At the same time, we need to make sure we aren’t engaging in the sins of gossip or slander ourselves else our sin is just as serious.

  3. says

    Excellent article Jon and thanks for sharing it Frank! It is very timely and accurate.There are very subtle ways that Christians gossip by asking for prayer for someone and their motives may be genuine concern – eg.”Please pray for Billy & Sue they’re having difficulties in their relationship”. This prayer request is loaded with gossip and inuendos that tend to spread rumours like wild fire!
    May the Lord give us wisdom and grace to guard our tongues.

  4. lauraselvak says

    thanks for tweeting this. a great article, essential and substantial teaching to chew on. I’ve always intended to do an indepth study thru scripture on tongue/mouth/words but THERE IS SO MUCH ON IT!!!!!! I haven’t got to it yet. It is one of the essential elements in living in the tree of life.

    I would add that it is important to discuss what the ‘stranger’, the ‘wolf’ ‘hired hand’ teach and say…and they WILL come amongst us Jesus says in Jn 10. We had a few incidents of these in our last group and the Lord led us to love the people but not take on board their doctrines/ideas/thinking. He dealt with each of them. We have to be able to discuss wrong teaching, false prophecy, false gospels which sadly do come even from those amongst us as Paul says Ac 20:30. So its learning how to be like Jesus in loving the sinner but guarding ourselves and the sheep from the error.

    I do think that people on platforms, given them by God?, if they are truly shepherds of the Lord should seek to guard the greater flocks from the above. I don;t believe enough responsibility has been taken in this area….what do you think Frank. We have grieved for the millions of sheep in some of the travesties going on in recent years.

    • says

      Laura: On the ground, in the groups I associate with, we rarely see problems with false doctrines and gospels. Once in awhile someone will visit one of the churches peddling a crazy idea or doctrine — like denying the Deity of Jesus or something like that. But it’s rare, and it’s not been a problem so far. What Jon is putting his finger on, however, is something that is quite prolific in the body to Christ today. It doesn’t just fit one category of people. Every believer is susceptible, regardless if one holds to correct doctrine or not. It’s part of our fallen nature to attack other Christians personally and put them in a bad light. And it grieves the Lord.

  5. says

    Gossip isn’t always this blatant tearing down of a person’s entire character. Sometimes it comes as “innocent” story telling about how so-and-so’s family has this “horrible aunt” and the other day, you won’t believe what she did . . . .

    It’s fun to tell stories, and stories to which others react with interest and fascination are the best kind. But this, too, is gossip when it casts others, or their families and loved ones, in a negative light. I’ve caught myself doing it and had to go and repent (to non-Christians!) of speaking about things I had no business revealing.

    That’s not to say that you can never tell a story of an event that happened, but when you know in your heart of hearts that you are uncovering your brother (or your unbelieving friend/acquaintance) rather than protecting him from unwarranted scrutiny, then that story is best kept to yourself.

    God bless,

    Cindy

  6. says

    This was a wonderful article; very well said and very necessary. A statement was made which I’d like to discuss further. Mr. Zens said that we should go to the person of whom we have heard gossip. In the comments, Dawn said that she was hurt that no one came to her when she and her husband were gossiped about. As the wife of a former minister, we have often been the subject of gossip. I have come to the conclusion that I’d rather not hear about the gossip. I believe in this case, most of the time, ignorance is bliss. I have confidence that the people who know us and truly care, know the truth about us. If someone hears gossip and wants to ask us for truth, I am fine to answer any questions. People who hear the gossip are more than welcome to do the right thing and confront the gossiper on my behalf. I, on the other hand, would prefer not to know who is gossiping about me or what they are saying. I suppose that the only time I would want to know about it, would be a time when others are being hurt by what is said about me and I, personally, need to do something to make the gossip stop or clarify the truth.

    I guess when it comes right down to it, I think we should check our motivation before we tell someone that they are being gossiped about. Are we gossiping? Are we pitting brother against brother? Have we tried to stop the gossip without success? Have we encouraged the gossiper to confess and ask for forgiveness? These are just a few of the questions I think we could ask ourselves.

    Does this make any sense?

    • says

      Tereasa wrote: “I suppose that the only time I would want to know about it, would be a time when others are being hurt by what is said about me and I, personally, need to do something to make the gossip stop or clarify the truth.”

      Yes, that’s exactly what Jon is referring to, I’m sure. Without being able to talk to those spreading the gossip, false rumors can take on a life of their own and “many will be defiled” as Scripture puts it. Unfortunately, some Christians tend to believe whatever they hear.

      Just as an example: Over the last six months, I reviewed a few people’s books on my blog. A couple of folks posted things attacking these people’s characters in the blog comments. (Of course, the blog manager didn’t post them and she boldly called them on it.) Where did they get this information? They read it on the Internet so (they assumed) it had to be true. And they passed it on as fact. The flip side (and good news) is that many Christians are more discerning these days and they are really tired of this sort of thing. God’s people have torn each other down long enough. A lost and dying world is waiting for us to show them Him who is Love, Grace, and Compassion by the way we talk about and to each other. Up until this point, they’ve watched us attack one another and tear one another down. But the tide is turning, I believe. I’m hopeful.

  7. Tracy says

    Actually I am dealing with this issue at the moment – I have heard the term in my past about people being ashamed of their race ( etc ) I have been ashamed not of Christ ( that would be crazy ) however ashamed of those who abuse the term christianity.. Upon leaving our what you would call ( normal routine playing church life ) we have recieved much persecution – especially my son who was an ordained minister from that *church* they have spread the most lying slanderous vicious things about him when we left out of obedience to God and not to man.. Does it hurt oh yes how it does – The same people who use to hug our necks and tell us they loved us every time we walked through the doors now look at us with snubbed noses and as if we had contagious diseases beyond cure and back bite us to no end.. Thank you for this article – I am not saying I have never been guilty of partaking in such talk – but that was in the past – I am a new creation in Christ and it sickens me to think of my past – I am sure I murdered a few people with my tongue – but we have to make sure we dont entertain conversations about other people – The tongue about all things is untameable … The thought of hurting God or other people hurts me.. anyways Thanks – Have a good one

  8. julie rust says

    God gave me a really good illustration a while back about loving others. Watching my two kids grow and mature, I’ve been both blessed and tested in how they relate to each other. One day, when I saw my older daughter do something genuinely kind for her younger brother, a surreal feeling of delight came over me. Now, I’ve seen people be nice to each other before, but there was something about my “own”, my children, loving one another that made it feel so wonderful. Then all of a sudden it clicked, “This must be what God feels like when he sees his own love one another!” Being able to experience that satisfaction first hand with the knowledge that it is one of God’s ultimate desires was extremely motivating to me. God gave me the ability to delight in the love expressed between my kids. I think he probably enjoys delighting in his own too.

  9. Tim says

    Thanks Jon for this article. I’ve been a Christian for more than 30 years and I have never heard anyone give this kind of teaching with so much insight. It ministered to me very much. Wishing every Christian would read it and practice it. The Mumford quote is sadly true. God help us.

  10. says

    Having personally had mine and my husbands name slandered and gossiped about on many, many occasions. On so many levels of perversions, lies, and manipulations many at the hands of Christians.

    We’ve learned we just have to let it go and trust whatever the Lord’s doing in that moment within us.

    I look at Jesus life and the things that were said about Him and He didn’t feel the need to confront every person who said something bad about Him.
    I personally think that’s a little silly.

    I don’t see our Lord as easily offended, we as human being are the ones who are easily offended !

    I will add within a church setting I do not think gossip or slander have any place.

    I agree with Ruth and have been to several(home) groups were such an empasis IS put on not talking about ANYTHING that it gradually squeezes the life out of the church.

    I think of the verse, ” The hated me before they hated you,”

    People are going to say and believe whatever they want to anyways, irregardless of whatever the truth may be !

    I believe the key is just not getting caught up into it ourselves.

    From my personal experience the quicker we are to want to defend our “holy and righteous” names, the more our Father destroys them.

  11. Matthew Berry says

    Thanks for posting this article, Frank. I think this is a good reminder for those of us who have left the institution for the authentic expression of the Bride of Christ. We ought not to tear down another brother or sister, regardless of their “church membership.”

  12. Dawn says

    Frog.
    This really hit home with me. My husband and I went through an experience where people spread gossip about us. I cannot describe the pain. What hurt us so much was that no one came to us and talked to us about what they were hearing or passing on. We still haven’t been healed from it, thank you for this article.

    • says

      Hi Dawn. I’m really sorry to hear this. I’m glad the article was helpful to you. In time, the Lord does heal all wounds. So please be encouraged.

      It’s interesting that you mentioned that no one came to you. When I receive emails that personally attack other people, as a rule, I ask them two questions: one is, “how would you feel if someone were writing an email to me like this about you?” and then “have you recently gone to this person with your concerns and *asked them* (not accused them) with an open mind, believing the best, if these things are true before you accepted them as fact and passed them on to others?” Not surprisingly, in the cases where this has happened, they have never gone to the person to talk to them directly. This is telling. Love will always seek to communicate with the person through the best venues possible, thinking and hoping for the best.

      Again, I’m sorry to hear about your pain. Just remember that all things are ordained by God and He uses them for our good, even the unspeakably painful things, to conform us into the image of His Son. The Lord bring healing to you both.

      Your brother,
      Frank

  13. Ruth says

    This post has very good points for sure Jon and thanks for reminding us all that God is always calling us to a higher standard.

    But I have a thought for you and It would be good to hear how you or others might approach this…..

    I lived for yrs with a group of believers that it was constantly being taught heavily on this very thing. (gossipping issue) Being used as a mantra in a way to even instill fear. Making saints so afraid to speak about something that when something would happen? No one was allowed or wanted to talk about it. Just pretend that something didn’t happen. In the need to control and keep the power……..it was said “your gossipping” if you talk about things that were going on.

    And as usual lots of destruction came out of “keeping your mouth shut”. And this is the hard part that I think a lot of Christians are dealing with…….in the Homechurch community.

    When your living your life to be more organic and more real and having more substance. When things are going on that have no business going on. But your under the yoke of being afraid of gossipping???

    This is a very tight line to follow…….should I say something or not??

    I don’t think it is always so black and white?

    I think when it comes to it possibly jeapordizing the Body of Christ…….that your meeting with.
    There are times when being open is more crucial than worrying about hurting someones reputation or feelings or even heaven forbid “the gossiping” mantra………I think personally.

    We know that personally attacking someone is wrong……..but when the fear of “gossiping” is being used to control people………and it happens all the time…….that is what is very disturbing.

    So wear is the balance of this?

    Well, for me it goes back to the Holy Spirit! He is the only one that can lead and guide us. We know the scripture say’s………go to your brother first!

    It is just what we do with that afterwards is where it gets really mucked up sometimes..

    I think your post points out some very good points of one side of the problem. But I think there is another side of “gossiping” that gets overlooked in the way it is taught. Fear based teaching of gossipping so man can use it to control and get away with things that they have no business doing!

    Would love your thoughts on this?
    IN HIM
    Ruth

    • says

      Hi Ruth. Love always dictates. And as Jon wrote, we should always think the best of our brethren (love thinks no evil, Paul wrote) and go to them privately to talk things out if we have an issue or concern … in person (as Jesus taught us to do) or on the phone if that doesn’t work. And we shouldn’t be quick to believe an evil report about a fellow Christian if we hear it. I’ve trained myself to do this (with the Holy Spirit’s help of course), as I know it’s wrong to believe such things without talking to the person in question. If we put ourselves in the shoes of the person who is the subject of gossip and ask, “how would I want to be treated if that were me being talked about?,” I think we will have our answer.

      The kind of thing you’re speaking of *inhibits* conversation and encourages people *not* to communicate and address issues with the person in question. I’ve seen that too unfortuantely. But it’s usually couched in “if you criticize the man of God, you’re touching the anointing.” But again, this is the very opposite of what Jon is enjoining. He is encouraging communication with the source, rather than speaking behind their backs and believing evil reports. Again, love should dictate.

      On a related note, I wish I could show my readers the emails I’ve gotten about some good friends of mine … people who everyone here would know their names as they are being used of God in a mighty way and are in the limelight. They are humble, loving people and their characters are being unjustly smeared by fellow believers who don’t know them personally and aren’t in their lives. It’s really horrible. I’m hopeful that Jon’s article will be used by the Holy Spirit to help us all to see Christ and treat one another accordingly. I’ve gotten a lot of private emails from people who have been helped by this piece, and I’m thankful for that.

      That’s my 2.5 cents on the subject.

      Lighter things await on Thursday :-)

      Your brother,
      Frank

  14. says

    I would like to extend thanks as well. I don’t believe I have been negatively affected personally by slander or gossip. But I have seen it happen to others.

    I have heard some particularly strong teaching on this subject, but Jon pointed out a few areas that I had never considered. Having your eyes opened in new ways concerning obeying God and loving people is always a good thing.

  15. Rebecca says

    How do we balance this with discussing a teacher’s public words & actions? How can we be careful that this does not become gossip?

    • says

      Rebecca. In whatever case, we should first go to the person privately as Jesus Himself taught us to do. The reason is that falsehoods and misunderstandings abound. For example: I get a good number of emails from people where they smear and personally attack other writers and people who are serving the Lord publically. Some of these people I know personally. They are my friends and I know their lives. Whenever I get emails like this, first it saddens me and disturbs me. Gossip and slander are poisons and they are the work of the enemy to devastate people and families. The Internet is notorious for this as it’s the wild, wild west. People can say anything without any accountability. I let such people know if the accusations are false (if I know that they are), but I always tell them that they need to go to the person if they have concerns or have heard rumors. This is what the Lord would have us do.

      We should always put ourselves in someone’s shoes and treat them the way we wish to be treated, as Jesus taught. If we follow that simple guidleline, it would remove a lot of the hurt and pain that gossip brings. If a simple email or letter doesn’t resolve it, they should seek to talk to the person face to face or by phone at least. Issues get cleared up that way. Again, this gets to treating people the way we would want to be treated. I think Jon’s article is right on. If every Christian would heed it, it would be less ammunition for atheists to talk about how horribly we Christians treat one another. May the Lord use it for His glory.

      • michael says

        Frank, what do you say to someone who is in a church where the leadership is spiritually abusive and bringing a matter to the leadership results only in the leadership blaming any one who brings a matter to them on the person bringing the matter. For example, instead of facing the problem they say the fact that the person even brought an issue to the leadership proves it is their fault because it is not Christ like to speak of such things , we should forgive and move on. I am a bit concerned that although in general I agree with your post and live by it, I also balance it out knowing that some teachers are not humble servants who lead and instead of laying down their lives for the flock, they desire to control, brainwash and manipulate their members. If we push this concept of never listening to or paying attention to any one’s issues when they speak to us concerning someone else we will enable many abusive leaders to continue without any accountability. Since they are usually only accountable to God & questioning them is equal to disobeying God there is no where to turn.

        I have also noticed that for example.. my boss treats me very well but he does not treat some of my co-workers the same way. Once I heard from a few people how unfair he was and thought “thats impossible, he is great!” but after careful observation I noticed that my boss did not treat everyone the same. People tend to take better care of those they consider assets, useful, or think that they need them. People do not treat everyone the same, we unfortunatly tend to play favorites, therefore I think that a balanced approach needs to be applied when someone comes to us with a personal issue involving someone else, they are not always in the wrong. Sometimes they are out to hurt because they are hurt but other times they are trying to heal from their hurt by sharing. Not easy to discern. Thanks for a great article , it made me think.

        • Tim says

          I’d like to answer this. Mike, Jon’s article gives the biblical answer. In this case, you go to the people who are committing the offense privately and hear them out. If they don’t resolve it or listen, you take a few others with you as witnesses. Then if they still don’t listen or stop the offense or resovle it, bring it to the whole group. This is what Jesus taught. Either that or just leave the group without speaking bad about the people, but if you want to see changes and the sin is personal toward you, then go to them privately first. This is spelled out in Matthew 18. It would apply to all circumstances where repeated sin is involved that isn’t stopping.

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