I recently received an email from a Christian acquaintance. The email contained some juicy information about a Democratic political candidate. The email claimed this candidate had mistakenly identified his favorite Bible verse as John 16:3, which says “They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” The candidate’s intent, the email said, was to embrace John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
The email gushes: “The Lord has a way of revealing those of us who really know him, and those that don’t!”
This turns out to be quite true, but not as the sender intended.
You see, the email forwarded by this well-intentioned Christian was a hoax. No candidate ever made this statement. In fact, it was first perpetrated against a Republican political candidate in an attempt to soil his reputation as a Christian. So, while the email reveals nothing whatsoever about its intended target, it speaks volumes about the sender who spread gossip in the name of the Lord.
The Apostle Paul puts gossip in context when he lumps it with other “wickedness” in Romans 1:29-30:
“Being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, malice; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.”
No doubt the perpetrators of the hoaxes would argue (from both sides of the political aisle) that the end justifies the means; that they are only trying to bring about the election of the best (and most Godly) candidate.
But Paul clearly states in Romans 3: 7-8 that this is never to be the case:
7Someone might argue, "If my falsehood enhances God's truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?" 8Why not say--as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say--"Let us do evil that good may result"? Their condemnation is deserved.
Electronic gossip is only the latest form of a spiritual disease that runs rampant in our churches. Nowhere in scripture are believers encouraged to speak about anyone behind their backs. We are enjoined to confront others lovingly when we have disagreements.
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” (Matthew 18:15)
When in doubt, we might look to James 1:26:
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
Amen Al! I wish everyone had read this before the last elections. I got a little worn out from letting people know they were forwarding hoaxes and lies (and I'm not even in the US!). I guess this whole point of gossip (in whatever form) really makes me more thankful for what my son did last night. He was chatting with a friend on-line, who mentioned she had broken up with her boyfriend (a friend of my son's). Matt's first response was "What happened?" but he immediately countered that with, "Sorry, I shouldn't have asked that. It's none of my business." That's really the best way to put an end to gossip - starting it or carrying it. With love, Deb
Well said, Al. I have often cautioned, before you put out anything, verbally, via email, etc. to make sure it is fact, and never put out anything intended as gossip or behind the back. I have seen churches split over this very thing. Who can be helped by a wayward tongue? What does it profit? What good can come from it? What is the purpose; help, condemn, shame, belittle, lift up; you get the idea.