GOSSIP, RUMORS AND LIES
(Article for the 5/20/2015issue of The Seward County Independent)
By The Rev. Dr. Daniel K. Schroeder, Pastor
Mighty Fortress Ev.LutheranChurch
When I was in college inMinnesota, a nasty rumor began to circulate around campus; and as rumors go, it was blown way out of proportion.
It all started innocently enough. One of the female students worked on the grounds crew. One afternoon after a particularly taxing day, she came back to her room with stiff and sore muscles. After she showered, she laid face-down on her bed, and then she had her roommate massage some lotion into her aching upper back and shoulders.
The door to their dorm room was wide open while this was happening, but the girls thought nothing about it. They weren't doing anything wrong. However, somebody walking past saw them; and as a result, the rumor spread like wildfire that these two girls were lovers. It spread throughout the dorm, and soon it was all over campus. They were shunned by many as their names were being dragged through the mud.
The one girl was so distraught over this that she attempted to take her own life. And if it hadn't been for the Academic Dean intervening, she might have died. It was a sad situation indeed that almost had a tragic end.
One of God's Ten Commandments reads: "You shall not bear false witness (or 'give false testimony') against your neighbor." To summarize what the Bible says about this, Dr. Martin Luther writes: "We should fear and love God that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him or give him a bad name, but defend him, speak well of him and take his words and actions in the kindest possible way (or 'put the best construction on everything')."
God knows what problems gossip and false rumors can create. Once this begins, the story gets exaggerated and distorted. And the greater the magnitude, the more people are inclined to believe it. Discrediting a false rumor and restoring a person's good name can be about as difficult as trying to unscramble an egg and put it back in the shell. It's so easy for a person to open their mouth, but so hard (if not impossible) to undo the damage that has been created.
Gossip and rumors have been problems for years, even in King Solomon's day. Here are a few selections from Proverbs: "With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors" (11:9), "A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends" (16:28)," A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret" (11:13), "Do not betray another’s confidence" (25:9), "...the Lord hates...a lying tongue...a heart that devises wicked schemes...a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community" (6:16-19).
In the New Testament, James 3:6 reads: "The tongue...is a fire, a world of evil amongst the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." And the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:13, "[People]...go around from house to house since they have nothing else to do. Not only this, but they also gossip and get involved in other people’s business, saying things they shouldn’t say."
Jesus was no stranger to false witness. When he was on trial before the high council, Mark 14:56 records what happened: "For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree." The false witness against Jesus was coming so fast that the people couldn't even keep their lies consistent. But in spite of this, they still found him worthy of death.
Jesus not only knows, but he understands too. On the cross, Jesus says: "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). Since we live in a sinful world, this means that we have found ourselves in this situation as both a perpetrator and a victim. And so we look to Jesus as our only hope for forgiveness and restoration. Through faith in Christ, we are forgiven for our sins; and out of love for him, we are compelled to forgive others just as he has forgiven us.
As we put our Christian faith into practice, we need to think before we open our mouths. THINK is an acronym: T = is it True? H = is it Helpful? I = is it Inspiring? N = is it Necessary? K = is it Kind?
In Matthew 5:16Jesus says, "... let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." May all of our words and actions reflect the love of Jesus that dwells in our hearts.