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.