Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me…? So who seriously came up with that little nugget of wisdom? Do any of us believe that? I think the attempt in this teaching was to encourage people to look past the absence of real physical harm, and to look at someone’s words as the coward’s way to inflict pain. Where living in a certain place or one’s lifestyle where it’s not so appropriate to just punch someone square in the face, words can take the place of that real need to “haul off and let someone have it”. Words aren’t fists, so they shouldn’t hurt us, right? The outcome though is actually anything but pleasant and when someone uses words as way to cause pain, they usually get their way. In fact I will go on record to say, I’d rather take the punch to the face because it’s over quickly and the pain will subside where I can get up, brush myself off and move on and deal with it. When someone hits you with a blindside though, and I mean in this case gossip, it leaves a lingering effect of hurt and turmoil that lasts much longer than the result of physical harm. Jesus once said in Matthew 12:34-37 For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
This, along with many other references in God’s word helps in our time of reflection on this subject, because quite frankly gossip just kills the heart of worship, and brings down the walls of unity in Christ’s church! Many have been on the wrong side of this blindside, have experienced every ounce of its wrath, and felt its pain. Those who are growing in Christ, seeing the error of their ways may even have been on the giving end of this. Those who have been here also have a significant testimony about good that came out of evil. Either way gossip is a stealth weapon that is every bit as lethal as a nuclear missile because it leaves nothing but devastation and death in its path! No good comes from this, only the doing of evil, and from it we will be judged. At least for the sake of comparison, you can see or receive information that a missile is headed your way! Gossip is deadly, under the radar and seeps into those you love and trust, doing damage in tearing apart the nerve center of love and care, and destroying one’s reputation without the person on the receiving end even knowing it is happening. In much sense it’s like a chemical weapon, after its release you one day, even many weeks later without warning you feel it’s affect and it overtakes your nervous system like serine gas. You don’t even know what hit you, but suddenly you are not the same to others that you once were. You aren’t treated with love and kindness, and people begin to steer away, or have critical or scrutinizing opinions quickly about things you say and do. Sound dramatic? Am I over doing this analogy? Those who have truly felt the effect of gossip would not disagree with this statement, and perhaps would even add some other choice adjectives to increase the awareness. In the end there are consequences as we read again 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,– Matthew 12:36 . If today as you read this you have either been the victim or the aggressor in this vicious act sometime within your life, and there is wisdom we can take from it to grow…
1. We are not blameless! Every one of us has fallen to sin and will continue wandering down this path until our end. Romans 3:23 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. No one escapes this truth. We can all strive to live and act in accordance to God’s word, but our words don’t do anything for our good. It is our decision to act upon these words and change our evil ways that will make any difference. The way that God gets the glory is through our action to change our sinful ways!
2. Every person has a reason to feel emotion for the way we are treated, good or bad. When we are approached by someone with corrective words it is either out of love, concern, impatience, ignorance or malice. Somewhere in this mix their words exist, and we need to seek God for the truth if it exists, and the connection before we act on our next step, which often times is to gossip about the incident. It is human nature to want to share our hurt with others, because we ‘need’ people to feel what we feel so we can either justify our emotions to them, or find a source of the blame. Nothing good can ever come of either of these, because as we all feel the effect of being corrected, spewing it onto others will always and only be a quick release of hurt that now takes our pain or anger and drags the innocent bystander right into the middle of it. Many offenders after the fact will look back and realize the wrong that came from it, but due to embarrassment and shame they will walk away acting as though nothing ever happened with the hope that the person they wronged will never find out. Often times unfortunately that is very true (hence the nerve gas analogy). Often times though in this silent but deadly assault the wounded never recover, they just don’t know they have been hit until it’s too late, and the damage is done!
3. Every person can change! Will they..? That’s another conversation. We have the ability though to enact God’s word in our heart and lives. By realizing first who are our allies and who are our enemies. Let me direct this to the allies first… those in your church, or other believers who you do ministry with you side by side, reaching others, and bringing people to Christ… are your allies! If there are people in your midst, or you are reading this knowing this is you, and you even “kind of” fit this description, and yet still cannot stop gossiping, I implore you as you read this to seek a strong and mature spiritual mentor and good Christian friends whom you trust that will stand by your side as you walk through this, study God’s Word, pray together and form accountability. You cannot and will not get through this without those entrusted to help you break free of Satan’s grip in this area. Allies need to realize we fight on the front lines together and that no weapon that can or will be formed against us will prosper (Isaiah 54:17). We have the tools and resources through God’s word and His people to overcome every bit of evil that tries to break the bonds of unity in Christ’s church! It’s up to us to align with those who benefit us not break us down. On the side of our enemies this is actually much easier to deal with often times because we don’t have a bond of unity with them like we do with those closer to us that cause us hurt. We can choose to walk away and stay at a distance if it’s possible, and often times that is the only choice we have and still remain close to the Lord. If you’re like me, our enemies bring the “fight” in me out and make me revert to my flesh. I don’t want to “take it” so I resist! Are you of the flight, or the fight mentality here? First off there is no formula to help or aid our enemies. They simply do not believe they have any issues to resolve, it’s not their fault and they do not care who gets mowed down in the process. These people can be identified quickly because hurting you or others is just a part of their daily lives and it’s the norm of living that they accept. People in general (us) stand in their way. Whatever pleases them, and their selfish motivation is their only thought and process they operate by. What then can change this type of person? The only thing that can penetrate our enemies and bring authentic change is the love of Christ! Prayer and the Holy Spirit living in and through us is the only chance we have of our enemies being overtaken and restored. If/ when it happens it’s a sweet thing because the glory returns to Christ when they surrender to Him.
Some of us work with people that we simply cannot get away from, and we view them as our enemy. If that is you, pray and ask God to either remove you from them, or them from you, or from the situation itself. Ask God to bend their will according to His plans for them, and for them to find His love. If that means to endure the situation then that may be the direction, and the cross He is asking you to bear…or He may create a situation where He releases you in time. His will be done and something will happen. These people who gossip and stir up dissention without account, have limited time because when life is said and done judgment will come back upon them. Reputations get walked on, names get smeared, and stories and lives get twisted in the wrong direction, and make no mistake in this either, it is also just as wrong to listen to it and do nothing, as it is to participate in it. The body of Christ is to build up and edify, encourage and grow, never to tear down and destroy. That alone is the work of the enemy, and we cannot be a child of the most High God and yet be used as a pawn to divide God’s precious bride, His church! Yes, people can change, but we also need to identify when we should walk the other way, and stay there! There is also the time where even believers who can’t stop their bitter and gossiping ways must be asked to part ways and seek help by different means so their toxicity stops affecting others and damaging lives in their wake. Gossip, if given a clinical term is spiritual cancer, and we know there is no medical cure. The only chance we have overcome this terrible disease is to humble ourselves, turn from our evil ways, fall on our knees before God, pray and beg for mercy; that He would deliver us from its grip, change our heart, and heal us forever. This miracle can happen, but it starts with our decision to extinguish the fire of evil that is our tongue, commit our lives to building up and encouraging the church, speaking positively into others lives, and leaving gossip behind us never to return!