Gossip runs deep in our culture. There are TV shows and magazines and websites completely dedicated to talk about what famous person is doing this or that, and we all know the story gets more reads if the news is bad. Nothing gets clicks like a nice juicy scandal. And it doesn’t stop with famous people; if a scandal strikes the ordinary joe, it likely won’t be long until he’s famous too.
This isn’t new; even in the Victorian era there were society columns in the newspaper, and long before that there was a graffito in Rome depicting a crucified man with a donkey’s head and proclaiming that “Alexamenos worships his god.”
Gossip is deeply rooted in our natures. We like to tell stories, and we like to be the one with the latest Information, so everyone will look up to us. My story’s better than yours, you see. I win.
No, actually, you don’t. Nobody does. And here’s why.
All of us who believe are members of a body, the church (1Co 12.13). Just as your finger wants to help your eye when there’s a foreign body in there irritating it—and the finger’s not irritated at all—just so, when one member of the body suffers, the whole body suffers (1Co 12.26).
That’s true in the universal body of Christ; if some Christian does something outstandingly stupid, then the social value of my standing as a believer is going to be reduced, even if I had nothing to do with it. But it’s especially so in the local assembly; if a member of your church goes to prison, his church membership may well be published on the local news, and the reputation of every member of that church is damaged, whether rightfully or not. Perhaps you’ve seen that happen; I have.
So far, I haven’t really been talking about gossip; news reports of a local crime are in the public interest. I’m simply making the point that believers are all connected and interdependent.
So now let’s bring gossip into the picture.
A key purpose of the assembly, the local body, is for believers to gather, look one another in the face, and exercise their gifts on behalf of the others in the assembly. In a healthy church, you’ll have the kind of relationship with a few other members that allows you to share your struggles, to hear of the struggles of others, and to be of help as you are gifted to do so. When a church member is struggling with a particular sin, he’s not designed to struggle alone; he needs brethren to come alongside to pray for and encourage him (Ga 6.1-2)—and perhaps to rebuke and exhort him as well (2Ti 4.2).
Now, suppose you’re struggling with pornography, and you need help, badly. What kind of person are you going to seek help from? Well, obviously, somebody who’s going to keep your confidence.
Somebody who’s not a gossip.
Now, suppose your church is a hotbed of gossip. Every juicy little bit of news spreads like wildfire; everybody knows, but nobody’s going to tell anybody else, except “just this once.”
Who’s going to seek help in an environment like that?
Not me. And not you, either. We’re going to struggle on in silence and desperation, and we’re never going to get the help we need. And consequently, victory will never come, and the whole body spirals downward to defeat, frustration, and collapse.
Gossip kills ministry. It kills the church. It makes a mockery of Christianity.
I came to realize this many years ago when as a young and foolish man I made a disparaging comment to a friend about a mutual acquaintance. He replied that I was destroying opportunities for ministry—because now he knew that I talked out of school, and as a result he would never come to me for help with anything he was struggling with.
He hit me with both barrels, and I will always be grateful to him for it. He changed my way of thinking and consequently, I’m confident, he changed the course of my life and ministry.
You’re not here to promote yourself; you’re here to serve God’s people.
So shut up and serve.