Monday, November 28, 2016

Resisting Gossip - Replacing Gossip with the Gospel

For the last couple weeks, we have been discussing the sin of gossip in Sunday school at 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church. We have been using Matthew C. Mitchell’s book, Resisting Gossip

This week we looked at how to replace gossip with the Gospel. There are two ways: First is speaking with edifying ears. Second is listening with Gospel ears. 

A. Speaking with Edifying Ears 

Paul says in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” The term "unwholesome" means "Rotten, corrupt or decomposed." The Greek word is often used to describe fruit and fish that has gone bad.

Paul exhorts the Ephesians to put off unwholesome talk and put on edifying talk. Mitchel discusses five ways a believer can do this: 

First, say nothing at all. It's often been said “If you can’t saying anything good, don’t say anything at all.” When you have the urge to share a juicy piece of news, pause and remember what Christ has done and limit yourself to speaking only edifying speech. 

Second, commend the commendable. replace what you were thinking about saying with something kind and uplifting about the person. 

Third, talk to the person and not about the person. Perhaps someone has caused you offense. Go to them directly. Do not spread your frustrations to others. 

Fourth, offer words of mercy. Speak about them in the best light. 

Fifth, if you can't think of anything to say, share a testimony about how God has been good to you or how you're seeing the gospel in a different way.  

B. Listening with Gospel Ears 

Listening to gossip is just as bad as giving gossip. The reason is that how we listens matters just as much as we say since both stem from our hearts. The key is to having a loving ear that comes from a loving heart. 

Mitchell gives four ways we can listen with loving ears. 

First, pray and weigh. Sometimes you have just a second to think about how to respond to someone gossiping to you. In that moment, cry to God for wisdom, that his Spirit will direct your words. Also, weight what you have just heard. Do not receive it passively but think about who's speaking, why are they speaking and is this the whole story. 

Second, avoid places of gossip. If you know certain environments have a tendency toward gossip then stay away from those places. Also, if someone is prone to gossip around you, avoid being around them. If you cannot avoid them, work to change the topic when gossip is brought up. 

Third, cover for the person being gossiped about. Say something along the lines of: “I’m not sure about that, but I don’t think that it is any of our business.” 

Lastly, ask the other person if they are willing to go talk to the person about this issue. Offer to go with them. In certain cases, it might be appropriate to say that you will go alone. [they probably will never gossip around you again with this approach.] 

One thing that Mitchell emphasis in this section of the books is that this all takes discernment and wisdom. Not of these "how tos" are intended as absolute principles. There is a lot of gray in these matters and before acting on them, take time to pray, weight and seek Godly counsel. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Resisting Gossip - what is the core of Gossip? Part III

For the last couple weeks, we have been discussing the sin of gossip in Sunday school at 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church. We have been using Matthew C. Mitchell’s book, Resisting Gossip.

This week we looked at the internal battle of gossip, what is the core of gossip?

In its essence, gossip stems from a person being judgmental of others. When we gossip, we slander [speak evil against] another person. Being judgmental is a necessary part of slander. Judging others is not necessarily bad. It is necessary in certain circumstances. “judging is necessary but dangerous.” (Ken Sande) But how do we fall into being judgmental? There are three ways. 

1. Rushing into Judgment

Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.” People make rash judgments when they are not patient. Often impatience happens when do not take the time to listen to both sides of the story. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” Also, we fail to consider the source of the story, who is speaking. Proverbs 14:15 says, “a simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.” Lastly, we assume we know a person’s heart and this causes us to jump to conclusion. This was Israel’s mistake when they assumed they knew that the Transjordan tribes were building an “imposing alter” against God in Joshua 22.   

2. Prideful Judgments

James 4:11-12 says, “do not speak evil against [slander] one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” When we are judgmental, we are playing God.

We play God by not considering three things. First, is this my place? God goes us to serve as judges in certain situations. When he has not, we should hold back from judging. Second, we fail to apply the Golden Rule to the situation. Sometimes we are hyper-critical of others when we would not want the same standard be placed on us. Third, we fail to lower ourselves as Christ did when he came down as man. We fail to become servants and look up at others actions and instead look down on them.

3. Unloving Judgments

Paul speaks of love in 1 Corinthians13, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends [fails].”

In commenting on this passage Mitchell says, “He [Jesus] would surely be fully qualified to do so [gossip about us]. He knows the whole truth about us and could rush to judgment. He is the lawgiver and the judge. Yet Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus does not delight in evil. He does not sinfully judge us. He saved us by his own sacrificial death. If Jesus has shown us this love, we need to show it to others.” (Mitchell, 74) 


Ultimately the sin of gossip is a failure to be like Christ. As we can see, it’s in very specific way. The layers of our sin are many and deep. Yet, we are not stuck fighting gossip as it happens. The gospel does not only encounter and stop gossip. It changes how we use our words and what words we use. This is what we’ll discuss in two weeks.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Gossip and the Church - What is Gossip, Part II

We are now in the second week of our Sunday School class on gossip at 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church. In the first week we answered the question, what is gossip? Gossip is “bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.” (Resisting Gossip, 23) This week we discussed how scripture talks about five different kinds of gossips. 

Gossip 1: The Spy

Proverbs 11:13 says, “a gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” In this passage the Hebrew word for “a gossip” is rakil. This means a “peddler of secrets, a deceiver or spy.” A spy loves to get a juicy piece of bad news out of people. Mitchell quotes an email he received from someone on this type of gossip. “I think for some people gossip is like a thrill or a high from being the first one to tell someone else about things. It’s like a competition to see who knows the low-down on someone else first. It makes them feel better about themselves because they ‘knew’ before you did.” (Resisting Gossip, 48)

The heart of the spy is to have power over others. They want to have the control that comes with being the first to know and then having the power to tell others.

Paul speaks in Ephesians 1:18-20 about Christ’s power, which is in contrast to the spy. Paul says Christ’s power is “immeasurable.” Jesus used his power to help others. Rather then using it selfishly, Jesus used his power to even give up his very life. Likewise, we are to use the power of our words to help others and encourage others, not to lord over one another. 

Gossip 2: The Grumbler

Proverbs 16:18 says “A perverse man stirs up dissension and a gossip separates close friends.” The Hebrew words for a gossip here is nirgan. This gossip is one who is a whisperer – he murmurs about another person behind their back. “The grumbler complains. He criticizes. When she is upset about something – and misery loves company – she will talk about others behind their back. We often euphemistically call this ‘venting.’” (Resisting Gossip, 50)

The heart of the grumbler is jealousy of others. The source of their “venting” is looking at what others have and unjustly wanting it for themselves. The opposite of jealousy is contentment. Paul speaks in Philippians 4:12-13 about the “secret of being content in any and every situation.” This secret is found in looking to Christ to supply our needs, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

Gossip 3: The Backstabber

The backstabber is like the grumbler, only worse. Mitchell says, “backstabbing gossip overflows from a heart bent on revenge, retaliation and real malice. The backstabber actually desires the target of his gossip to experience pain.” (Resisting Gossip, 52)

This was David’s experience. He says in Psalm 45:5-9,  “My enemies say of me in malice, ‘When will he die, and his name perish?’ And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad. All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me. They say, ‘A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.’ Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”

The heart of the backstabber is revenge. They want to take out their enemy with a vengeance. Scripture has a strong warning for backstabbers.  Proverbs 26:27-28 says, “If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him. A lying tongue hates those it hurts and a faltering mouth works ruin.” Paul warns in Romans 12:19 to not take revenge but leave it to the Lord. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” 

Gossip 4: The Chameleon

The Chameleon is one who goes along with gossip to try to fit in with the crowd. Proverbs 29:25 says “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” The heart of a chameleon is the fear of man. Rather than fearing the Lord, one who struggles with this kind of gossip is focused on what others think more than God. The answer is to meditate on the greatness of God and remember that he is greater then anything of this world.

Gossip 5: The Busybody 

Mitchell defines the busybody. “The busybody is a person who is idle, not engaged in purposeful business and wants to be entertained.” (Resisting Gossip, 56) Paul specifically mentions individuals in the church who are “not busy; they are busybodies.” (2 Thessalonians 3:11)

Many foolish people exist in the world and we sometimes think that we can, as busybodies laugh at their foolishness. Whether it is someone falling down the stairs or being caught in the public eye for their misdeeds, their foolishness does not exist for our entertainment.

The heart of the busybody is selfishly serving themselves rather than loving God and loving others. Christ did not laugh at the foolish, he helped them. Rather than whispering about others foolishness, go to them and build them up. Help them in their time of need.


So which kind of gossiper are you? Do you have a tendency to gossip in a specific way? Take some time to reflect over your sin, asking God for the sweet cleansing balm of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Then go and begin speaking as one redeemed by Christ. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gossip and the Church - What is Gossip? - Part I

This past week we started a new Sunday School class at 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church. We are discussing the sin of gossip and how it can bring great harm to the church. Our main source is Matthew G. Mitchell’s work Resisting Gossip. In the first and second week we are working to define gossip.

1. The Lure of Gossip 

Gossip is like Doritos. You eat one and suddenly the whole bag is gone. It says in Proverbs 18:8; 26:22, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.” We like it so much, but why? Mitchell explores the seductive nature of gossip by walking by first defining it. 

2. What is Gossip?

Mitchell defines gossip as “bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.” (23)

First, gossip has to do with words. A gossip can be one who speaks gossip but also one who receives it. Hence, it says in Proverbs 17:4 that “wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip…”

Second, gossip is bad news. Mitchell explains that there are three kinds of bad news.

There is “bad information” or information that is completely false. There is bad news about someone that is true but shameful. Sometimes we call it a “bad report.” Lastly, there is bad news about someone’s future. You predict what is going to happen to someone in a bad way. For instance, “they’re going to lose their job.” “He’s clearly not going to make the team.”

Mitchell notes that words of “bad news” are not always gossip. Sometimes we have to speak bad news and hear bad news. He discusses how we can do this appropriately later in the book.

Third, gossip happens behind someone’s back, when they are not there. Mitchell offers four questions to help diagnose whether what you’re saying is behind someone’s back:
1. Would I say this if he were here?2. Would I receive this bad news about her in the same way if she was present?3. Am I hiding this conversation from someone?4. Would I want someone else to talk this way about me if I was not present?
Lastly, gossip is out of a bad heart. Christ said that “out of the overflow of the mouth, the heart speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) From our heart comes our motives/reasons for our words. This begs the question, why does our hearts enjoy the taste of gossip? 

3. Why do we Gossip?

Everyone loves a good story. God designed us to eat them up. This is one reason the gospel comes to us in four stories. Gossip is a story, but it is a bad story. “Bearing bad news can be antithetical to the gospel itself.” (37) In the garden the serpent slandered/gossiped about God, “Did God really say….” (Genesis 3:1) All gossip is an echo of this first slander against our Lord. Mitchell explains that: 
“Gossip is believing the ancient lie that we can attempt to play God by destroying others with the power of our words. Gossip is not just breaking a rule; it is perversely living out Satan’s lies, which we would rather believe than the truth.” (37)
Using Christ’s words from Matthew 12:34, Mitchell develops “the principle of overflow:” we gossip because bad words overflow from our bad hearts. Gossip is not a minor offense against God or our neighbor. It’s a sign of deep sin in our lives. What we speak is merely the overflow of the wretchedness of our hearts.

So how do you change your heart? We can’t change ourselves. We are helpless. It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that any change happens. Paul speaks in Romans 6:22-23 that: 
 “But now that you have been set free from sin” [Christ’s work on the cross to pay for our sins] “…..the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
With this being our key premise, next week we’ll begin to embark on how to discern what kind of gossip are we individually especially attracted to. Then we’ll move into how to combat the sin of gossip with Godly language. Lord willing, not only will be learning how to defeat the sin of gossip but transform how we think about words and their power.