Please advise me regarding the situations when I hear that there are some in the church that gossip about me, spread rumors and do not approach me to tell me anything.Then, I hear that in Christian circles, sometimes in my presence, they discuss about someone who is not present. I understand that this is not good and I do not participate in such discussions. Is it necessary to go to the persons that talk behind my back and ask them why they do so? How to behave when they are discussing about another person in my presence?
To better understand the subject, let’s define …
What is gossip?
According to Cambridge Dictionary, gossip means:
A conversation or reports about other people’s private lives which might be unkind, disapproving or not true
In the context of our subject, when we say “gossip” we refer to situations when there are spoken evil and untrue things in order to slander, to defame, to revile and ruin the good name of someone.
Gossip (defamation) is a serious sin with eternal consequences
In the Epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)(NASB)
Warning! Gossip is placed on the same scale with fornication, idolatry, sexual perversions, theft, etc. and if someone goes to church and thinks he is a good believer, but practices gossip (defamation), let him no longer deceive himself and repent. Otherwise, he will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Not to be disturbed by the unfounded gossip of the unbelievers
When describing the humanity, Apostle Paul says:
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; 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; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)(NASB)
Because this is part of the sinful state of slavery in which unbelievers are, we should not be upset for personal harms that we have from them without reason. Moreover, the Scripture tells us to continuously equip by studying God’s Word and …
…. sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. (1 Peter 3:15-17)(NASB)
Let’s be careful not to give anyone opportunity to stumble and thus to be slandered. The Apostle Paul wrote about himself and about the team he was working with in the Gospel:
giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited. (2 Corinthians 6:3)(NASB)
And if we are discredited and slandered falsely, let us have the attitude of the Apostle who said:
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)(NASB)
Moreover, enough about this because the question was …
What to do when you hear that you are maligned in the Church?
If someone has spoken about you behind your back, you could not hear unless someone came to you to send these words. Firstly ask the person who told you if he or she had confronted the one who was gossiping you. If not, then ask him if he wants to confront that person, as one who had witnessed the defamation. If one who has gossiped about you repents, he will necessarily come and ask forgiveness from you. If he does not repent, you will have to go together with the witness who has heard him defaming you and confront him together. If he does not repent this time, you must ask the pastor to intervene. And if he does not listen to the pastor, he will have to be disciplined, according to what the Lord Jesus said:
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)(NASB)
So that the whole church may not be affected by the sin of defamation, the Scripture says very clearly that this discipline must be urgently applied to the person who has gossiped:
But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler–not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)(NASB)
What to do when you become a witness of defamation?
Do not hurry to qualify in the beginning as defamation. Remember that defamation is when untrue things are spoken in order to discredit someone, or to harm someone. If bad deeds of someone are recalled, do not hurry to qualify this as defamation or gossip because maybe the person who has started the discussion wants to find a solution and help the one who has fallen into sin. If you have doubts, it is good in the beginning to ask the brother or the sister who is talking to you why he is telling you these things and if he is ready to say the same things to the person who has sinned, if he needs to be confronted.
Let us realize the seriousness of the sin of defamation, to watch and realize the danger that it can bring upon the Church of Christ if not confronted in time.
Translated by Felicia Rotaru