Into Thy Word -
"A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue, without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down." (Proverbs 17:27-28; 26:20)
The Bible is directing us to restrain our speech. A wise person controls their tongue; what they say and how they say it. The Bible goes on to say that people who spread gossip have malicious intentions as much as the people who start the gossip in the first place. This malice leads to the destruction of property and persons, just as bad as a fire would destroy a home or a church.
The important lesson we must learn is the church is not a building, but the people of God who just use the building to meet in. Too many churches think the building is the most important thing of God, and miss the point of what it is for.
Remember this important truth; when our focus is to be mean to each other and find fault with each other, all we accomplish is the shooting of ourselves. Because we all are partakers and participants of the body of Christ, so we're just shooting parts of our own body. We are taking something Holy of God, such as using prayer and relationships to spread gossip, thus we turn prayer into slander and misinformation for a very un-holy agenda, which does nothing to further the Kingdom of God.
Gossip has three breeds, or three different levels. Separating these three levels can be as hard as separating the chocolate chips out of a cookie. It is extremely hard to do without disturbing the cookie! So it is with our mislaid words.
First: Is the "chit chat" we all do. "Did you hear that the Chaedwicks are moving" or "Steve 's parents gave him a new car for Ground Hog Day." This is basic information without harmful intent, but we must be careful what we say and how we say it!
Second: Gets stickier; "Did you hear that Debby's parents are fighting again" or "Have you heard that Kevin is in a real bad mood, so just ignore him." This may not be mean or vindictive, but this tells a story of someone's character that may not be true. And we will base our judgments on false and misleading information.
Third: Is slander! Maliciously telling or repeating a tale that may or may not be true to tear someone down. "Do not go near Patty, she is weird and nobody likes her" or "The new family is only here because the father lost his job and they had to move, and his parents have lots of money." This third level of gossip destroys people's reputations and betrays secrets that are not meant for our ears. This level prevents friendships and takes potentially good relations and destroys them, doing exactly what Satan wants!
This third level is slander, and God hates it!!! Webster's Dictionary tells us slander is, "the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage reputations." This may be viewed as ordinary conversations during lunch, or at the water cooler, but make no mistake, slander seeks to distort and to destroy! It tears down the people of God, where our call is to build them up!
"The Disease of Diotrephes"
"I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone--and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true." (III John 9-12)
Diotrephes had a reign of tyranny through gossip and slander in the name of Christ. John makes a strong and decisive stand against gossip. John is representing not only his apostleship, but mainly the authoritative presence of Christ. The presence of Christ is a stern warning, and a loving encouragement for us, that we must replace the temptation of spreading gossip and replace it with the love of Christ.
We get 6 negative and destructive themes from this passage that should act like a brick wall to our slanderous remarks:
1. "Who loves to be first": Christ first loves us, He goes first. Why do people want to be first? Because we want to be a god to ourselves, and God of the universe keeps getting in the way. Yet He loves us first.
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped." (Philp 2:3-6)
How can we develop this attitude in Philippians? Should Christians have a 'me first' attitude? Instead of trying to be first, we should place Christ first, and then gossip will fall aside.
2. "He would have nothing to do with us": The "us" is the people of faith in Christ. Have you ever experienced someone having nothing to do with you? Did this experience happen when you did something right and your friends, or co-workers were upset, perhaps because they felt betrayed? Maybe they wanted to go out drinking and you turned them down. Perhaps a friend wanted to do something stupid and you tried to talk them out of it, and they got mad at you. Maybe it was you who tried to pressure a friend to do something wrong and they got mad at you!
We must ask ourselves; Diotrephes rejected the truth of an Apostle; how do we reject the truth of our Lord and Savior?
3. "To what he is doing, gossiping maliciously": Have you known people who just love to gossip? People who have the nose for the news of others, but with a perverted intent. They do not want the news to help and encourage them, but to put them down. How does this make you feel; perhaps you are hurt by it, or you get excited about it. But how does your Lord feel about it, and how does He feel about your response toward gossip? What would your church be like if everyone was encouraging to everyone else, regardless of what may have gone on before. Regardless if we like them or not, because we are responding to Christ's love. Remember God loves us first. So if God first loves us and we do not deserve it, should we not do the same to each other?
4. "He refuses to welcome the brothers": Do you know people who just are not hospitable, they are disrespectful, condescending, or ignore new people. These people have bad attitudes and do not like certain people, so they decide to be mean. How does this make you feel? Have you ever experienced such treatment? Have you witnessed it happening in school, work, home, or even church? Maybe you are the one who is mean to others, maybe you do not even know you are doing it, if so, what can you do about it?
5. "He also stops those who want to do so": Can you imagine that someone in the name of Christ is stopping other Christians from following Christ's character! Do you or do you know others who stop people from doing the right thing? How do they keep others from doing what is right? Check out James 4:17! How can you be an encourager instead of a gossiper?
6. "And puts them out of the church": Diotrephes was on the warpath, he actually got rid of people who were faithful to Christ, because they got in his way. In my experience there is nothing a child of the Devil hates more than a child of God. If you are a faithful Christian you can expect people to come against you, even other Christians. But God is on the side of the faithful and true and not on the side of those who cause division and destruction. So take comfort in His grace, for He will be with you and they will get what is coming in the end. How can our church practice discipline? So are you ever a Diotrephes? Are there Diotrephes in your group or church? Check out I Corinthians 5:1-5 & Matthew 18:15-17. What can we do, how can we be encouragers and attractive to each other, including visitors?
Ó R.J. Krejcir 1998, 2001 excerpt from the upcoming book Pew Sitting