Let’s be honest; we know what gossip is. It is speaking about someone in a way that defames, dishonors or otherwise hurts their character. Sometimes it is subtle, like grumbling about someone, and other times it is loud, like ranting about someone. Further, sometimes the content of what is said is true, other times it is not. Either way, the person hearing does not need to know the information, they don’t benefit from it. And, most times it is not actionable; they are not going to go and help the person, instead they are just going to use the information for selfish gain.
Gossip and its sibling—slander, divisive speech and deceitful speech—are clearly rebuked in the Scriptures (Ps. 101:5; Prov. 6:16-19, 11:13, 20:19; Titus 3:2). Instead of killing people with verbal assassinations, we are to speak words of life and grace (Eph. 4:29).
Because gossip does not edify the church we should as much as possible bring an awareness of how God feels about it and how destructive it is in the life of the church. We need to know what to do about it. We need to know how to shut it down.
Today I beseech you to begin to use these three steps to handle gossip:
(1) Refuse it.
The obvious first step to shutting down gossip would have to be to convince people of how God views gossip. We can do this by intentionally having conversations and prayer of the destructiveness of gossip. This is simply calling attention to it. Instead of being passive (not talking about it), we need to be active, without becoming preoccupied by it.
What if the church called gossip out? What if we hated it? What if we believed the Bible and were convinced that to gossip was to display hatred for God and others? What if we believed that it served to fracture the unity that Jesus bought and the Spirit created? If we believed this then we would react and reject it like an enemy rather than willingly welcome it like a friend.
(2) Rebuke it.
Ask the question is this even true? We all know the dangers of talking about what we don’t know. Go on to show them how stupid it sounds, what the Bible says and how destructive this is. Show them that they are defaming their brother/sister, a child of God. Explain how this insults God’s plan and assaults God’s people. Call the sin of gossip what it is and tell them that they should in fact repent and bear fruit in repentance by controlling their tongue and speaking words of grace. Once we understand the damage of gossip, we will become vigilant to ensure that it is expunged from our church.
(3) Redirect it.
There are three aspects of this: first to Christ, second back to the person and third to others they have gossiped to.
First, redirect people back to Christ. The reason for gossip is because they are believing a lie about God and themselves. Remember, Satan was the first gossiper when he talked trash about God. Show them how Jesus died for their sins, even the sins committed post-conversion. This sin should be a magnet to draw them back to the person and work of Christ for repentance, forgiveness and refreshing. (In this it should be noted that their issue is not just with another person but Christ. Jesus is Lord of the church; and so they are sinning against him.)
Second, redirect people back to the person. If they have an issue with someone, they should go and talk to them. If they have done some damage to the person’s character, then they should go and tell the person in humility and ask for their forgiveness. I will often tell the person that I will follow up with them in a week or so to see how the conversation went. We must practice Matt. 18:15-17.
Third, they should also go in humility to the other people they have gossiped to. This closes the loop and reinforces the need to reject the sin of gossip. It reminds, or perhaps educates, those who have been exposed to this sin of the nature and danger of it.
Gossip is ugly and nasty. It is never good and should be despised by all who love Christ and His church. Instead of being passive and tolerating something that is widespread, we should be vigilant to remove something that is destructive and vile. Let’s step up our game and move to another level, starting with ourselves work to shut down gossip.