by Caitlin Meadows
Christian gossip. Ponder that term with me for a moment… Shouldn’t it be an oxymoron?
Unfortunately, Christian gossip is not an oxymoron. Instead, it is a common sin in the Church.
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
– Jesus, Matthew 7:3-5
Too often I listen to a sermon or read Scripture and think about someone else who would benefit from it. For example, messages addressing gossip.
People who have hurt me by speaking against me or my loved ones are on my list of gossip offenders. It infuriates me that these individuals can do this without recognizing how sinful it is. Almost as much, it infuriates me that others listen to the gossip without calling it out for what it is. Such an ugly speck this gossip is.
Hold on a second, I need to clear my eye out quick. I have a log stuck in it.
Just like I have been the subject of others’ gossip, I am guilty of gossiping about others. Likewise, I am guilty of listening to gossip and not calling it out for what it truly is.
When I participate in Christian gossip I fail to lead in the way that Christ has called me. Much worse, I lead those who do not know Him to not want to know Him at all. Why should they want to be like me and follow my God when I fail to speak kindly about others?
I’m not alone in this.
How does this offense so easily infiltrate the body of Christ? Like Satan disguises himself as the innocent lamb, Christian gossip disguises itself in benign forms. Regardless of its disguise, the affects of Christian gossip are destructive.
A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates close friends. Psalm 16:28
As Christians, we cannot be perverse yet still glorify our King. We must call gossip what it is – sin. To do this, we need to recognize the disguises it takes on to access the Christian’s life.
Five Common Disguises of Christian Gossip:
“I really need to get something off my chest…” That’s usually how my gossip begins. I justify this gossip disguise by assuring myself that I only vent to certain people. And I only do it to clear my head. So, it’s most definitely harmless and not gossip. After all, I have the right to tell my husband everything and my sister is a vault, so it’s alright. Right…? Yet after venting I am always left with that gnawing feeling in my spirit that what I did was wrong. Sin is sin, not matter what I call it.
“I wish I could wear whatever I want without caring what others will think. You know, that’s what I admire about so and so! She doesn’t care how weird and ill-fit her clothes are. She just wears whatever she wants because she likes it! If only I could be that secure with myself.” Otherwise known as a back-handed compliment, the praise disguise is the kind of gossip in which a person is negatively spoken of in a way spun to sound positive. If I ever feel I have to make my negative opinion about someone sound good in order to share it, I don’t need to share my opinion at all. Kindly worded insults are still gossip which is still a log that will get lodged into my eye if I let it.
“Please don’t share this with anyone, but I know you’ve been there so maybe you’d have some helpful insight. Could you join me in praying for so and so? Her marriage is crumbling. Apparently, she and her husband fight constantly. It’s heartbreaking!” When I share another’s confidential information for the purpose of prayer or advice, it’s okay because my motivation is concern, right? Wrong. Without permission to share someone else’s personal information, it is gossip when I do. My loving concern for another person means I protect their privacy. It is unnecessary to divulge another’s confidential information when asking others to join in prayer because the One we are praying to already knows the details. If a third person has wisdom that could bless the one who is struggling, I should discretely connect the two and let them converse privately.
(Note: When we become aware that a person/people may be in danger, it is our responsibility to share that information with authorities who can help protect the individual(s) from harm. This is not gossip.)
“Is it just me, or do you think so and so is dating the wrong person? They just seem terrible for each other! Correct me if I’m wrong… Am I totally off base?”Clarification, very akin to concern, is a nasty way in which gossip disguises itself among Christians because it seems so selfless. I form a negative opinion of something another person is doing and want to share my sentiments. But I can’t be mean about it because that’s gossip! Instead, I share it with the purpose of seeking correction. What should make this gossip disguise obvious to me is the compulsion to defend my original opinion when correction is provided. Selfless as it can seem, sharing negative opinions about someone while feigning the desire for clarification is still gossip which is sin, no matter its disguise.
“She said I did what? Well, that’s her interpretation! I don’t want to say too much but since you’ve heard some things already, let me give you my side of the story.” It is unfortunate how easily the cycle of gossip perpetuates! There have been many times I have determined in my mind not to discuss a certain painful situation involving someone else when suddenly it is brought up by a third person and I discover that my name or the name of someone I care about has been smeared. My indignation flares and my determination not to discuss the situation becomes determination to defend the smeared name.
If presenting a defense means I have to disparage another person, guilty as they may be, my defense is still gossip. Thus, it is more beneficial to keep my side of the story to myself. As children of God, we can wait and rest assured that He will defend us (Psalm 18:1-3). As long as we are living in accordance with His leadership, we have confidence that the truth will prevail without having to defend ourselves (John 3:21). Certainly we can offer correction when words or actions are misinterpreted, but never at the expense of another person.
The Solution for Christian Gossip
Gossip is a sin that can so stealthily lurk in the corners of our hearts, even as followers of Christ. We need Christ’s cleansing light to shine on it, enabling our continued sanctification. Thankfully, there is no limit to the forgiveness offered by our Savior. Our personal spiritual lives will thrive when we are intentional about recognizing our sin, submitting it to God, and allowing His Spirit to purify us for the purpose of glorifying our Heavenly Father. And with His forgiveness covering our sin, we can proceed to live with the intention of pointing those around us to Christ who willingly clears out every pesky speck and log from our eyes so that we can see Him clearly and reflect Him to others.
With Christ’s leadership, Christian gossip truly can become nothing more than an oxymoron.