What we say reveals what we believe. We can’t hide it. Fresh water, salt water, and the like (James [3:11]–12). Some forms of speech reveal in a more straightforward manner: “I believe the sun will rise tomorrow.” Thanks. Others are more complex, like gossip. “Can you believe that about Laurie and John? What she said? How he reacted? You know Amber overheard them, right? And she knows Laurie, and she said that. . . .” What does that reveal?
It’s juicy. It feels so good to sink our teeth into fresh secrets (Proverbs [26:22]). But with our self-involved search for the knowledge of good and evil happenings in our community, we reveal an entire theology under our indulgence in such things — a dark, hidden, embedded, implied theology, spoken in whisper and innuendo.
When Scripture warns against gossip (Romans [1:29]; 2 Corinthians [12:20]; 1 Timothy [5:13]), it is applying an entire understanding of God, Jesus, his word, his image, his plan, his salvation, and his people. To refrain from gossip is an on-the-ground practice of Christian theology. Likewise, to share in gossip is to practice a distinctly non-Christian theology.
For the sake of those who indulge in gossip, and for the sanity of those who have heard gossip about themselves, we will articulate the theology insinuated by gossip — we will speak out loud the things we would elsewhere only whisper. We will make known hidden and unspoken and even undesired allegiances and indulgences woven in the words “Well, don’t tell anyone, but I heard. . . .”
Gossip contains speech that would never occur in heaven — moreover, that would never occur among the members of the Trinity. To be gossiped about is a bitter suffering, because it spills into almost every other relationship — even one’s relationship with God. We would never say it out loud (why?), but it’s easy to slip into the belief that God is laughing at us with everyone else. Indeed, this is the implicit theology of gossip. The one who gossips finds ways for God to endorse their evil, and the one who is gossiped about is naturally inclined to believe that endorsement.
But Jesus does not speak words of judgment or accusation about you to the Father. In fact, the Trinity doesn’t even speak neutral words about you. All speech between Father, Son, and Spirit about the Christian is overflowing with active love (1 John [4:16]). The Spirit is praying for you (Romans [8:28]). The Son is your priest (Hebrews 8:5), cleanser (Hebrews [10:22]), advocate (Hebrews [10:20]), and the one who subdues your true enemies (Hebrews [10:13]). The Father loves you with the same love with which he loves the Son (John [17:23]).
Gossip is the opposite of how the Son speaks to the Father about you. The Trinity talks about you behind your back. And it would be really encouraging if you heard what they said. When they talk about your sin, there is hope and a plan (1 Corinthians [1:21]; Philippians 1:6). When they talk about your suffering, there is help and a purpose (James 1:3).
“Gossip is the opposite of how the Son speaks to the Father about you.”Tweet
Gossip is built on the attitude “We are different — you are different. You are not normal.” Christology is built on the attitude, “We were different, but now we are the same. I am the same as you.” The Son says, in taking on a human nature, “I will dwell in the mud with you” (John [1:14]), “I will become nothing and die with you” (Philippians 2:7–8), “I can totally sympathize with you” (Hebrews [4:15]).
Of course, Christ is not sinful. But that is what makes the incarnation glorious — that God created commonality between us and him “while we were enemies” (Romans [5:10]) — not only becoming man, but in taking the humiliation and mockery of his fellow man (Luke [22:63]), even his closest friend trades Jesus’s dignity to warm himself with an in-crowd around a fire (John [18:17]–18). Gossip is a dismissal of the decisions, experiences, and love of Jesus.
First of all, Scripture forbids gossip (Proverbs 17:4-5). Second, when God speaks to us, it is always direct, and for our good (Psalm 119:9–11; Psalm 1[19:12]9–133). He is never passive-aggressive or holding back (Job 40:1-7) — he intimately pulls us into his thoughts even about our great sins and shortcomings (Isaiah 62:5; Hosea 14:4) for our good, for our salvation, and for our peace (Zephaniah [3:17]). He says, “I’m not hiding my thoughts from you. Some of them will be hard to hear, but for every difficult word I have, I have a plan, power, and grace for you specifically” (cf. Psalm [18:31]-32).
Gossip is the exact opposite of this sort of speech. It is behind closed doors, whispered under breath, and is a sinful response to human insecurity. When God speaks, he offers security and wisdom out of his self-sufficiency. God judges gossip to be arrogant (Proverbs [21:24]) and foolish (Proverbs 9:8) because it is so unlike and in contradiction with the character of his own speech.
Written by Paul Maxwell
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