What sin has probably caused more pain than any other?
A well-qualified candidate is Gossip! It is, in its most formal form, a violation of "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."1
However, even in its more subtle forms, gossip is probably accountable for more personal pain and suffering than most of us have any appreciation of.
Gossip is a form of betrayal! Common and casual, yet it is hurtful beyond our reckoning.
Quietly, behind the flurry of daily priorities, its venom does its silent work, undermining confidences, betraying relationships, spreading unseen injustices, invisibly promoting misunderstandings and distrust.
The Scripture has much to say about gossip:
Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:16
A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter. Proverbs 11:13
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. Proverbs 18:8; 26:22
He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips. Proverbs 20:19
Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. Proverbs 26:20
Our Lord's Example
As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife. Proverbs 26:21
Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.... John 8:7
Our own personal troubles at the beginning of this decade included bankruptcy, earthquakes, and relocating from our family roots. But the most pain, which still endures from the traumas of those difficult years, came from the libel and slander that was promoted (or tolerated) by a few of our "Christian" friends.
Most of us can probably relate to similar experiences. It's disturbing to note how many of us have been injured deeply by gossip and by those who accepted, without checking, negative or derogatory innuendos whispered behind our backs.
In contrast, we have also received the indescribable encouragement, on a number of occasions, from the reaction of several radio talk show hosts (and also on Internet traffic over various controversies) by those who rebutted aspersions about us without even needing to "check." Praise God for such examples!A Mischievous Anecdote
As many of you know, Walter Martin was a close friend; my partner and I were the ones who brought him and his Christian Research Institute to the West Coast, and we served on his board during those early years.
During an interval prior to a board meeting, Walter came up to me, with that mischievous grin of his, and began, "You know what Chuck Smith said at his service the other night...."
I stopped him mid-sentence and asked, "Wait a minute, Walter. What was Chuck's response when you questioned him on this? For I know you are far too Scriptural in your Christian walk to pass something on without first having reviewed it with him. What was his response when you reviewed this with him?"
Walter winced. He knew I had caught him and that I wasn't going to let go. (I was just being mischievous I had caught him in an unguarded moment and couldn't resist tweaking him a little.) Several of the others present began enjoying this rare opportunity as much as I was.
He smiled, but as a child with his hand caught in a cookie jar, and rebutted, "I can see I'm going to have trouble with you, too."
We all chuckled and continued, yet not letting Walter disclose the apparent faux pas that he had been so anxious to share.
(Those were such precious years. It was unusual to catch Walter in such a misstep. He was a dear friend, a legend in his time. We all miss him terribly.)An Apocryphal Story
Three pastors were meeting privately to share their innermost confidences and to pray for one another with respect to their major weaknesses and personal stumbling blocks. The first frankly confessed to his two confreres that he had a serious problem with lust.
He shared with them a number of ways that he found himself in compromising situations and told how he was frequently stumbling in this area. He asked them for special prayer in dealing with this weakness.
The second, encouraged by this display of candor, admitted that he, too, had a problem, but with money. He found that he just couldn't resist skimming occasionally, and was guilty of a number of indiscretions regarding this weakness. He confessed his need for better stewardship and asked for prayer.
The third pastor then reluctantly responded, "I must confess I appreciate the remarkable candor of both of you. My weakness is gossip, and I can hardly wait to get out of here!"A "Christian" Subterfuge
You have probably also witnessed the following hallway murmur:
"I don't want to gossip. However, in order that you might pray more specifically for ____, let me share with you the latest...."
Isn't this just a rather transparent cloak for gossip? As you know, a secret is something you tell one person at a time. And a rumor is a favorite weapon of the assassins of character.True Friendship
What is true friendship? A relationship that doesn't require explanations. One that gives us the assurance of receiving the benefit of the doubt. A friend is one who is loyal and shuns any form of betrayal.
We know, of course, that none of you are guilty of these abuses; these suggestions have been offered to help you counsel your needy friends. (Right?)