I think it was something quoted by Socrates that first said, 'Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people'.
And I've been reflecting today on how I agree.
Now, I've been the subject of gossip before, and I'm sure I will be again. We all will be, I guess. But these last two weeks have been the most brutal that I've ever experienced.
Now, please don't misunderstand me. I'm as guilty as the next person in this area. Gossip seems to be like this secret craving that we all say we don't like, but truthfully can't resist. However, after these last two weeks, I have to say that I stand against it with new resolve.
I am deeply and truly and painfully sorry for any time I have fuelled, discussed or perpetuated a rumour about someone else.
I confess it, turn away from it, and say that is no way for a Christian to live.
Because the Bible has plenty to say on this subject. Plenty.
Colossions 3 paints a pretty serious picture. As does James 5. As does a fair amount of Proverbs.
And gossip isn't just what's untrue, it's what's half-true, part-true or said with the wrong motives. It's spreading rumours to purposely tear someone down instead of build them up. It's keeping hurtful words alive so they spread far and wide instead of dying down. It's talking about something before you've even spoken to the person directly or confirmed it to be true. It's talking about something in secret, when the person is not present and can do nothing to defend themselves.
But yet, it seems to be the one 'sin' that we all accept or justify because we're 'speaking with the best intentions', or 'we need to pray', or, or, or….
Gossip. Is. Gossip.
But this is not a blog post about gossip. It's about what I'm learning. Which is something entirely more hopeful and entirely more appropriate to meditate on. Because this isn't about pointing the finger at anyone, it's about focusing on the greater reality of loving God and loving people.
So these last two weeks, I have been thinking, that when everything gets questioned… You are left with… Only what is real in the first place. Five things out of many spring to mind.
1) God in still on His throne. Obvious. True. But a great source of encouragement. Read the Psalms. Mediate on passages like Psalm 27. Whatever man may say, whatever man may do… God is still God. And He is still good. Nothing is hidden from His sight. He doesn't only hear the words that are spoken, He sees the motives of our hearts. He sees when we say things fuelled with a genuine and loving spirit. He sees when we say things that are fuelled by hatred or jealousy or insecurity. He cannot be deceived. He cannot be fooled. He knows if our intentions are to build someone up or tear someone down, no matter what the world sees. Which leads me onto my second thought.
2) There is a great equalizer called death. Now, I'm not being morbid, I'm just being real. There will be a judgement, and we know that those we thought will be first will be last, and those we thought would be last will be first. I don't know where we each fit into that, but I do know that He is righteous and holy and true. And I've blogged before about the question of what He's looking for from us in this brevity of life. He's looking for our love. For our whole hearts and our complete minds. And if my mind is too busy dwelling on another person instead of Him, that's sin. And if my mouth is too busy talking about another person than praising Him, then that's sin. And if my prayer life is spent 'gossiping' in a one direction conversation at God, as opposed to praying with Him in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, then that's not what I'm called to do. God doesn't care about my reputation in the eyes of man. He's not impressed by the size of my ministry. He's not going to judge me on hearsay. He's looking for my heart and my love and my devotion. It's a good thing to remember.
3) Our battle is not against flesh and blood. I had a comical conversation with a friend this week about that passage in the Bible where Elisha is called a 'baldhead' by some youths, and in turn he calls down a curse and some bears maul them (if you don't believe me, then read 2 Kings 2 v 23… This story exists!!)… and we jokingly commented on whether that response was still appropriate. But seriously, I then have to remember that there's something bigger going on. I am right now, the subject of gossip. Hurtful, heartbreaking gossip. But I am also guilty. And we are all people. People who don't get it right, and need forgiveness and a Saviour. And in this mess of humanity, and the mess of trying to be church… I have to remember that the battle isn't to be fought there. The battle is Ephesians 6, and it's the spiritual reality that I need to keep in mind. Because satan loves disunity, and he loves bitterness, and he loves anger, and he loves to disrupt the callings and purposes of God in someone's life. He will never win, because God is greater and stronger and bigger; but our battle is fought with the weapons of prayer, and won on our knees. And in that place, you can't hold onto any of the emotions that don't belong there. Ever tried staying angry or bitter at someone you are genuinely praying for? Nope, you can't do it.
4) Jesus is coming back. And I think quite soon. And that makes me scared for a church that sees gossip taking up so much time and energy. I wonder, if we put as much effort into praying for revival in the nations of the world, as we do about talking negatively about our neighbour/friend/colleague down the street, whether the church in this nation would look a bit different? I hold a theological perspective that believes we're going to go through some serious tribulation on the run up to the return of our King. I agree with David Pawson when he talks about the growth of Islam in the west as being a huge threat to the growth of the church. I agree that when Jesus says the love of many will grow cold, that it's something we should be on our guard about. Man, this is a challenge to me!! I'm not pointing the finger at anyone but myself. I need to get my vision off of myself and onto Him. I need to have a fixed gaze. And so keeping this in mind, I want to test myself. I want to repent and live differently.
5) I want to bear the fruit of the Spirit in my life. How do I know if I'm speaking from a pure heart? How do I know if someone else is? How do I know what truth is? Well, I guess, I look at the fruit. If someone is speaking words that are tearing another person down, I need to stop them. If in my heart I can't pray blessings on the life of another, I need to take that to God first and deal with my sin of unforgiveness. If I haven't spoken to the person directly, I need to hold my tongue. If I'm hearing words spoken by someone who isn't bearing the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, then I need to take a step back and put it into God's hands. We can't just believe everything we hear without testing it. So what's the fruit of Galatians 5?
Is it said with love? That doesn't mean it's easy to hear, but it does mean it shows love and only love to all parties involved. Does it bring joy? The joy of freedom in the Truth. Conviction always leaves hope. Condemnation robs hope. Do the words bring peace? Not a human peace that is swayed from day to day, but the Shalom peace of God that can never be shaken. Does the person speaking show patience and kindness in their lives? Is there the fruit of goodness and faithfulness. If something is good, it means it is righteous. It means it is steadfast and unchanging over time. It means it is just and treats everyone the same way. Are words spoken with gentleness? Does the speaker have self control? These are the things we have to test. That I have to test.
Because the fruit is always in contrast to the sinful nature that comes before in chapter 5. The sinful nature that is immoral, impure and stemming from idolatry. The sinful nature which is motivated by hate, and jealousy, and bears the fruit of discord, fits of rage and selfish ambition. The words that are spoken that breed only envy and dissention, and are listed alongside drunkeness and sexual sin. Because gossip? That sits there. In that list, which says that people who remain there will not enter the kingdom of God.
Serious business really. But God's Word is. I'm on my knees.
And so I don't finish in that complete seriousness, I have to share some snaps from a particularly good day 🙂 My friend Becca rocks. As does this beautiful Highland that I am leaving in 9 short weeks.