I heard a great quote the other day while watching House M.D. I just got hip to this show a few weeks ago and fell in love with it. I think Hugh Laurie’s character is a riot. Anyway, it was actually Robert Sean Leonard’s character that said this, and what a great quote it is: “You can’t punish the man without punishing those that love him.”
Have you ever thought about the words you say about others in that light? I preach about gossip rather regularly at Refuge because it’s such a big problem throughout the church nationwide. Gossip unfortunately has become an accepted part of church culture and I’m not specifically whining about gossip about myself. It’s everywhere and rampant. Why just the other day I had a friend tell me about how gossip nearly destroyed them emotionally. In recent months I’ve had many individuals come to me with tears telling me how the gossip they hear from others is “hurting them”. Can you hear the words from the quote from House?
The Bible deals with this subject more than a few times because as James puts it in James 3, “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”
When I heard the quote on House, this scripture took on an entirely new meaning. Gossip is most often used as a weapon… a way to punish those we disagree with or are offended by. We often justify our tongues with words like “accountability” or “truth”, yet the Bible is abundantly clear about accountability and truth and nowhere does it justify gossip, malicious talk, slander, lying, or even disclosing what one believes to be “truth” as a means of accomplishing these things.
When we gossip, we forget some really important concepts. For example.. GOD’s ROLE in the whole matter. Isn’t it up to Him to bring light into the darkness? Yet when we use gossip as weapon we are acting in His place, attempting to do His job. In reality, we are not doing “the Lord’s work”, we are acting at the bidding of the great deceiver who’s primary goal is to disrupt all that God is doing. For example, gossip has been the cause of thousands of church splits over the years. Is this “the Lord’s work”? One wonders. (not really)
I heard another wonderful quote the other day which gives us a solid course of action I think. Excuse me for being vulgar, but this was the quote: “If you didn’t hear it from the horse’s mouth, you heard it from the horse’s ass”. Yeah, it’s funny, I know. It made me laugh out loud when I heard it. But it does offer us a good piece of advice. If we didn’t hear it from the source (or if we’re unwilling to go seek out the source), then we need to shut the gossip down because to admit the gossip into our hearts is to allow Satan to rule a part of our lives. We will become deceived. It’s the only possible outcome. How can I say that? Well, it’s simple…think about it. Ever hear the old saying “there’s 2 sides to every story”? Well actually there’s manysides to every story, and if you don’t hear them all (from the sources) and hear them with an objective ear, then you DON’T KNOW the whole truth. You only know a skewed version of it. And believe me, every version is somewhat skewed. It is skewed by our filters, life experiences, and hurts. We can’t help but filter. We all do it and unless you’re Mr. Spock, you can’t help it no matter how smart you are. And if you’re honest, you’ll have no choice but to admit that most of the time when we gossip, it’s an attempt to appear to be the person “in the right”. “I’m right and they’re wrong and here’s why…” Ok, I realize we’re not all ready to admit that about ourselves so I’ll move on.
Our only alternative then is to follow the Bible’s advice and shut up, shut down those who won’t shut up, and leave the rest to God. That’s the biblical “high road”. Sadly, we Christians (myself included) have become so self-righteous that we can easily justify our mouths. It’s time to listen to the advice of Lamentations 3:26It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. 27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. 28 Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; 29 let him put his mouth in the dust– there may yet be hope; 30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults. 31 For the Lord will not cast off forever, 32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33 for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.
Get it? We need to learn to live in silence and allow God to do His will. Take David and Saul as an example. Saul was a bad king. But he was the king that God chose to give to the people. Whether or not they liked it, Saul was God’s choice. Saul wasn’t perfect, but that did not negate God’s will. If anyone had cause to criticize this imperfect king it was David. David was routinely treated with contempt by Saul and in the most unfair of ways. Yet what did David do? In his “righteous anger” did he lash out at Saul? In 1st Samuel 24 we read “It is a serious thing to attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.” This was David’s reaction to the idea of bringing harm to Saul. It is reasonable to argue that this is dealing specifically with killing a king which God forbade. Some use this to say we can never criticize church leaders. This is not at all what I’m saying. Church leaders can and should be held accountable, but there is a process set forth in the scriptures for such accountability. We cannot skirt around God’s process and expect God to bless it. If we disagree with the way our criticisms were handled or received when we went through God’s process properly (do we even fully understand it?), then our only recourse is to remain silent and let God handle it from there. Yep… back to the silence thing again. To do this requires great faith and trust in God. Are we ready to really trust Him? But this post isn’t specifically about church leaders. This is just an example of how we tend to find ways to justify what we say about others. This principle need to be applied in every relationship in our lives. It’s a universal principle that God wants His people to get a hold of because if we don’t, our “noise” will damage everyone that hears it.
In truth there is great wisdom to be found in silence. For it is in silence that we best hear the voice of the Lord. It is in silence that we are able to shut down the voices of our own anger, resentment, depression, disgust, or whatever other voices are raging in our heads. It is only then that we are fully able to receive the wisdom and peace of Christ. “Righteous anger” gets us nowhere. In fact, I think it’s a great disservice to teach that it’s ok to have “righteous anger”. Jesus was able to do have it, but then again He was fully righteous. We are not…we are merely cleansed sinners. We are made righteous by His blood, but we are not fully righteous in ourselves. Yet we think we can control our minds and our tongues as we act and speak in anger. Yeah, good luck with that. (sarcasm intended) Remember, we’re only human and imperfect. We all have filters, most of which we aren’t even aware of.
So how about we try following the most difficult advice scripture has to offer. Have the faith to trust God and not try to do His job. Try remaining silent when others speak of you and let God handle it. It will go against every natural instinct you have, but when you do it, you will hear the Lord speak to you in ways you never knew possible. When others speak gossip to you follow the wisdom of silence and ask the person to stop speaking because by listening, the gossip will end up affecting you in some negative way. “You can’t punish the man without punishing those who love him.” Truer words were never spoken. The wisdom of Solomon from House M.D. Pretty cool.