I remember being a young follower of Christ in college and being taught by the student-athletes who reached me with the Gospel about the “one another” statements in the New Testament. I was amazed at the plethora of declarative “love one another,” “serve one another,” “care for one another” instructions from the apostles. I was discipled that these were applicable for all followers of Christ and should characterize our behavior.
Part of my early discipleship efforts were aimed at memorizing verses from the Old and New Testaments. Ephesians 4:29 was one of the first selections I was encouraged to commit to memory: “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.”
I am aware that gossip is a human problem and affects men and women at home, in schools, neighborhoods, the workplace, and mainstream society. In contrast, I saw and experienced the value of clear and helpful speech and conversation on some of the championship athletic teams I participated on. Coaches and captains did not tolerate less than stellar words to help us as a team stay focused and purposeful toward our goals of high performance and achievement. I benefitted from an environment that recognized the contribution of each player on offense and defense and challenged us to use our words to build up, not tear down one another.
When I started following Christ, I did see a healthy use of words and speech in Christians which indicated Ephesians 4:29 in action. I also witnessed a practice of gossip among some.
All of us have experienced the pain that gossip can cause. The sense of isolation and ridicule, the inability to refute the lies, and the sheer hurt and betrayal can be unbearable to anyone of any age. I still remember the deep feelings of rejection I felt and was faced with when a colleague suggested to someone else that I had violated team policy. Sadly, he had gotten faulty information from another “gossiper” and both failed to go to the original source to make sure they were clear about what actually happened. Neither came to me to ask about what really took place and an ugly cycle of disinformation caused quite a bit of discomfort for me.
Somehow I don’t think educational efforts alone are going to solve the gossip problem that has been yet another consequence of original sin. Parental reinforcement, public service ads, even speech codes on campus will not change any hearts.
But I am puzzled about the inconsistent speech among Christians. Believers in Jesus have had a heart change. Our attitude towards Jesus and his ways used to be bad while our attitude to sin was good. Christ’s salvation and the Spirit’s power reversed that behavior. We’ve been transformed and given new life from above. The Holy Spirit is active in each of us. Why then are Christians such incubators of gossip? Do we forget that a “perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends?” (Proverbs 16:28)
Read Romans 12:9-21.
Is it possible that we’re too busy talking about others and not listening to God? If a “gossip cop” followed you, would he give you any tickets? For what? The solution starts with you and me, recognizing the authority of God and the dignity of others. Live communally. No more gossip.
Love is a verb,
©2015 by Mike Olejarz