“You will be gossiped about. If it has not happened yet, get ready, because someday you will find yourself in the cross-hairs of gossip,” writes Matt Mitchell, pastor of Lanse Evangelical Free Church. “Sadly,” he continues, “most of the time you will not know that you are a target of someone’s harmful words. Perniciously, gossip is done behind our backs, when we are not looking, when we are not listening and when we are not present.” Responding to gossip in a godly manner is hard enough when you know who the gossips are and what they are saying. However, the difficulty is intensified exponentially when you don’t have hard facts to confront, or the people you do confront deny it, pretend they know nothing, or continue to give you the kisses of Judas. Still, you must respond. You will respond. But how?
Respond in Faith
In Psalm 140:1-2, we see David taking his situation to the Lord first. Sadly, when we are gossiped about, we (myself included!) typically “take things into our own hands. We complain about those who are complaining about us. And we run around attempting to set the record straight.” This only makes matters worse.
In contrast, we can take it to the Lord in prayer. When we take our pain to the Lord, we can tell it like it is, not minimizing the intensity of the hurt. But we also remember who we are talking to when we pray. We know that God is the ultimate judge, and nothing—in the end—will ever escape his righteous judgment. Therefore, we can ask God for justice and believe that He will eventually answer.
Respond in Love
Of all the commands given to us by Jesus, perhaps loving our enemies is the most difficult to carry out, to know how to obey. This difficulty is intensified a million times over when the person who has become your functional enemy was once a friend. “When someone gossips about you, he or she is acting as your enemy. That person may not be your enemy in any official way. He or she may, in fact, be your closest friend. But at the moment when bad news is being spread behind your back out of a bad heart, the person doing the spreading is acting as your enemy.” To love our enemy is to act like God who loved us while we were yet His enemies (Romans 5:8). But how? How do you love your enemy, especially if he or she refuses to talk to you?
- Pray. First, pray for them. “Pray for justice. Pray that your gossiping enemy’s evil plans will backfire. But also pray for conviction and repentance and eventual blessing for your enemy.”
- Overlook. Second, overlook sin when you can. “Overlooking is a kind of one-sided forgiving. It means we just go on relating to the person in the same way we always did.”
- Confront. Third, true love always seeks reconciliation—always. “Love goes to the person who is acting as an enemy and shows that person his or her fault so that relationship can be restored.”
- Repay evil with good. Fourth, bless them. “If people have gossiped about you, make sure that your basic stance is for them….Returning blessings for beatings seems crazy to the world, but that’s what we do as Christians” (1 Cor. 4:10, 12-13).
When we choose to love our enemies, and always seek reconciliation, the Bible promises us a great reward (1 Pet. 3:9). May the Lord grant us the faith and love we need in order to learn how to respond to gossip!
As our elder team continues to read through Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue, please consider reading and growing along with us.
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