Most people are familiar with gossip in middle school and high school. What many people are not prepared for is the pervasiveness of gossip throughout one’s adult life: at work, in neighborhoods, among friends, and even in church.
Although we often treat gossiping as a pastime for students in school, it is sinful behavior that affects adults just as much as teenagers and children. These conversations are hurtful and destructive.
As followers of Jesus, we should not participate in gossip. However, many people in churches can testify to the ugly presence of gossip and even one’s own participation in it.
To think about this issue biblically, let’s look at a few key passages and concepts that help us understand how we should respond to gossip when we encounter it in our lives.
The Golden Rule
“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).
Referred to as “The Golden Rule,” Jesus’ words are familiar among believers and non-believers alike. As Christians, we should take our Lord’s command seriously. If we do not want others talking about or treating us in a certain way, then we should not talk or act that way either.
Jesus’ words are radical and go against the natural inclination of our sinful flesh. We want to repay evil for evil and make sure people know they have hurt us.
However, Jesus tells us to think about how we would want to be treated. Such behavior has nothing to do with the actions of the other person but with who we are as followers of Christ.
In thinking about gossiping, we can quickly see that God would not want us to participate in this behavior. To gossip is to talk idly and often involves spreading lies and slander about another person.
Even if the topic of gossip is technically true, it can still be harmful to others. At the heart of such conversations are pride, jealousy, revenge, and hatred, even though people think they are “just having fun” when talking about other people.
Hence, if someone is in a situation where gossip is happening, they should remember Jesus’ command in Luke 6:31. If they would not want another person speaking about themselves in that manner, then they should not participate in the conversation.
Furthermore, they should practice discernment in what they share with others so that they can protect the integrity and trust of their friends, family, co-workers, and others. Individuals who are known for gossiping or talking about others quickly lose credibility and integrity in the eyes of other people.
The Test of Love
Do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:14).
Scripture repeatedly urges us to love others. The two commandments that sum up the Law are: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).
If we love God, our love for Him will overflow in our lives through a love for others. Specifically, a person that hates another person cannot rightly claim to love God because love for God naturally leads to a love for our fellow humans. In fact, the Apostle John says that such a person is a liar (1 John 4:20).
In case we wonder what love is, Jesus gave us His example in dying for us even while we were still rebels against Him (Romans 5:8). Also, He has given us the Bible with multiple passages that discuss love.
For instance, in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, we read, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
We can easily measure our words, actions, and intentions by this passage of Scripture to discover if we are behaving from a place of love.
Based on what has already been said about gossip, we know that gossip does not pass the test of love. When we participate in idle talk, lying, slandering, or putting others down, we are not acting in love.
Such talk should not pass through our lips because believers are meant to build each other up, not tear others down with our words (Ephesians 4:29).
When we talk about others behind their backs, spreading half-truths (which are still lies), or slandering a person’s reputation, then we are acting sinfully from a place of hate, not love. Gossiping does not reflect the love or attitude of Christ.
A Proper Response to Gossip
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior (Ephesians 4:31, NLT).
From what we have seen from Scripture about treating others as we would want to be treated and the biblical exhortation to love others as ourselves, we know that gossiping is wrong and that we should not participate in it.
When we encounter gossip among friends or at work, we should speak up and express our desire not to participate in gossip, or we can walk away from the conversation.
Followers of Jesus who are striving to love others should not want to participate in a group that tears another person down for the mere “fun” of gossiping.
If they are seeking the good of others, then they would not want to tear another person down for the sake of making themselves appear “better” in comparison.
Likewise, at church, we should not participate in gossip. Instead, we need to confront gossipers about the harm they are causing. If the problem persists, then finding and talking to a trusted leader in the church is needed. Gossip can destroy a church, which is why it needs to be dealt with through discipline (Matthew 18:15-20).
If a person is guilty of participating in gossip, they should acknowledge the sinfulness of their speech and ask for forgiveness from the Lord. When we ask for forgiveness, He is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9).
While gossiping often becomes a habit for people, the Christian who has turned away from gossiping can seek the Lord’s help to show love to others. Instead of using their words to harm and hurt others, they should speak words of life and grace.
Finally, the person who has been harmed by gossip should remember that God knows the truth. He knows that the lies and slander that people are spreading are sinful and hurtful.
Victims of gossip should not seek revenge because God says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32:35). When people speak maliciously against us, we should respond with love instead of evil (Romans 12:20-21).
Why Does This Matter?
Believers should use their words for good, not for harm. While the world might value word-slinging and reputation-slaying, believers need to value love, truth, and grace.
If we love God and other people, then we will avoid participating in gossip. To love others means to seek their good, which excludes using the circumstances of their lives to spice up conversations or slandering and lying about them behind their backs.
Instead of being known for our conversations of “she said, he said,” let us strive to be known as the people who talk about and follow what “Jesus says.” He told us to love others and to forgive those who hurt us. Gossip has no place in the life of a follower of Jesus.
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
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