A Most Pernicious Temptation by T.E. Hanna

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The following is a guest post by T.E. Hanna. I felt it was so good, I wanted to publish it for my readers.

It is a rampant problem in many Christian circles that believers learn to use the right words rather than embody the right life. Specifically, they are enticed to communicate about people rather than talk to those people.

Perhaps the most pernicious of these temptations comes to us in the form of gossip and slander. If we can simply pinpoint the sins of others — real or imagined — we can elevate ourselves to the righteous role of sage and judge in one fell swoop.

If challenged on it, we can simply default to claims of “accountability” or hide behind the “need to pray” for that individual’s struggles. In the process, we retain the mask but ultimately usurp the very meaning of righteousness, accountability, love, and prayer. More so, we violate love and we thus sin.

Ironically, we do it all in the name of Jesus. 

Left unchallenged, the plagues of gossip and slander will take root within the individual and then quickly spread to those around them, poisoning the minds of others.

The treatment for this disease is ultimately found in the very meanings that were usurped. If we wish to embody righteousness, we must be willing to examine our own faults rather than point to the distracting mess that are alleged about others.

If we wish to embody accountability, we need to be willing to speak directly to the people we may be concerned about rather than speak about them. And have an open mind and heart as we do so.

We would want no less if someone were talking about us or they were concerned about us. Matthew 7:12 is often preached, but so rarely lived. “Treat others the way you want to be treated, this is the Law and the Prophets.”

If we wish to embody prayer, we need to couch that prayer in a relationship with the one for whom we are praying, rather than publicize our misguided perceptions in our prayer request.

Above all of these, if we wish to embody love, we must be willing to take up the cross and walk with others rather than choosing to walk over them. Love is defined as treating people the same exact way we would want to be treated in every situation.

If all Christians walked in love, then slander, gossip, evil speaking, judgmentalism, jumping to conclusions, judging the motives of others, thinking the worst of them, spreading mistruths about them, etc. would all evaporate and the Church would indeed be that shining light we’re called to be.

As a blogger and a writer, it has been staggering to me how often I am suddenly made privy to gossip about people I’ve never met. Love dictates that we bloggers fiercely moderate defaming comments about others, not approving those comments and even correcting the people would dare to speak ill of other believers.

We would want the same if it were us being defamed. It’s both tragic and ironic that Christians are the ones who often the guilty parties in spreading slander about their fellow believers.

The internet has the inherent ability to strip people of personal contact and, with it, the sense of accountability. But the body of Christ will hold those who hurt others by evil speaking accountable. Correction will come and so will God’s discipline on those who sin in this way.

If we wish to be voices of hope in a very broken world, we must be cautious that the voices to which we give ear are voices of healing and not destruction. Gossip and slander are things we should have no tolerance for. Rather than wink or blink at these cancers, deeming them less serious than murder, adultery, stealing, etc, we should confront those who traffic in such sins of the mouth and typepad and hold them accountable.

In the end, the cure to all of our spiritual plagues was embodied 2000 years ago, as love took on flesh and revealed its depth on a cross. 

T E Hanna is the author of Raising Ephesus: Christian Hope for a Post-Christian Age and he blogs regularly on issues of faith and culture at Of Dust & Kings.

Related:

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear or Read

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

Warning: The World is Watching How We Christians Treat One Another

Rick Warren’s Horrific Tragedy & the Sickening Response of Some Christians

Religious Jealousy: The Unspoken Root Behind Hatred, Slander & Murder

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Comments

  1. Wesley Schoel says

    This article is so needed in the Body of Christ. I think it is easy to think of the times I have been wounded by malicious gossip and to forget the times when I might have been involved in this very sin. I’d like to think I never committed this sin, but I remember leaders who failed, co-workers who’s poor performance reflected on me, and family members who were fickle and unfaithful to their spouses – all of whom I talked about with someone who was not part of the problem nor part of the solution. I’m not saying I’m a gossip. But I have gossiped. I work hard at integrity, but when my wound or that of my friends or family has been great, I’ve too often felt justified in shinning the light on the weaknesses and failures of others.
    The Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me get away with this behavior for long and I have often found myself repenting to God and the person – but the damage would already have been done. It can’t be undone – at least not easily.
    Being a Christian leader opens one to attacks from other Christians. I’ve learned to be a bit “thick skinned” when it comes to the carelessness of my brothers and sisters. But I’ve also worked at becoming “thick skulled” when it comes to hearing gossip about others – just not letting gossip sink into my mind and correcting the gossiper. I’ve also had to learn to bridle my tongue – no matter how justified I think I am about a situation. God can vindicate me. My idle words about someone else who hurt me – or mine – only add to the wound. I must choose to always speak with grace and love when I speak of my fellow Christ-followers. Or simply keep my tongue and remain silent.

  2. Vinny says

    As usual excellent responses. This is so insidious and pervasive That even in the Golden rule I found myself treating others as myself…..the problem is I live a totally open life and most people require more privacy. We must go the extra mile and speak ONLY what is helpful for building up and err on the side of silence and bring it to our Father and listen for His instruction.

  3. Cherilyn Phipps says

    Thank you for the recent posts on this topic. It has been convicting and humbling. I see it quite bit living in a small town and need to take a stronger stand. What if we spoke only words of kindness, affirmation, and blessing behind people’s backs?

  4. says

    I have been thinking a lot about this lately. My heart is concerned for the Body of Christ in America. Whether we realize it or not we have been badgered, beaten, attacked, slandered, minimized and persecuted in various ways from without but seemingly more so from within. Through it all however the Lord’s love and light is prevailing. We must band together major on the majors and not divide over the minors.

    We do have a common enemy and it isn’t a brother or sister in seeming error. It is the fallen one, the slanderer, the deceiver whom we overcome by the blood of the lamb of which we all are partakers and beneficiaries, by the word of our testimony even in the face of ridicule and loving not our lives unto death but giving expression to His love in us and through us for one another.

  5. Steve says

    I sincerely believe that gossip and slander do more damage to the Church and Christ’s mission than false doctrine, greed, and apathy combined. The bride of Christ has a real self-destructive streak, with so many parts saying, “I don’t need you.” God, please help us to just shut up!

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