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Posts Tagged ‘gossip’

As soon as the Bible mentions “body parts,” everyone’s mind goes right to sex. And yes, there is a lot to be said about sex and its abuses. But there are other misused body parts that do equal damage to the soul. . .

Romans 6:13
Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

The tongue is the number one culprit in my life. This is the body part that is constantly leaning toward wickedness and does much damage. If I could keep my words corralled and dedicated to God, what a difference it would make. Instead, my mouth goes into 3rd gear while my mind is still in “park.” I have actually warned people that I think out loud. I hear my out loud thoughts and then massage the ideas. In a brainstorming session, I can be a true asset: Blurt Out Brown.

But this type of talking can do harm when it turns into gossip. I can’t even say it’s always malicious gossip. It’s the constant telling and retelling of a story where I might have been on the short end. And unconsciously, every time I tell that story, the perpetrator gets more stupid and I am more wrongly maligned. The listener nods and “tsk-tsks” and I feel vindicated to tell the story again. Oh shame.

There are other abuses of the tongue: cattiness, sarcasm, complaint, crudeness, name-calling, and lies (to name a few).

As I think about it more, it’s clear the tongue is but a slave to another, more secret master: the mind. It is the mind that fans the flame and directs the tongue to speak, to answer, or to attack. The mind is the “first responder.”

I love the fact that I have an active mind. I am relatively smart and I can process a lot of data. I am creative and I am facile. But this same mind that has served me well has also spent a lot of time on the “dark side.” It’s time to flood my mind with the light.

I confess my sinful tongue and ask forgiveness for the damage it has done. Oh Lord, Guard my mouth this day. Show me how to offer my words to you before they leave my mouth.

Sensitize my mind to the sacred other that I might not inflict my wounds. Hold my judging thoughts and sift them before they can take root. Take the memories I have used to justify my resentments or anger toward others.

Take my life and let it be consecrated to you.

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In telecommunications or engineering, scalability is a desirable property of a system, a network, or a process, which indicates its ability to either handle growing amounts of work in a graceful manner or to be readily enlarged. [wikipedia]

Romans 5:15
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!

Grace is scalable. Forgiveness is scalable. The Christ [anointing] is scalable.

For me, this is the point that God is driving home into my soul. There is no sin that cannot be covered by Gift. There is no mistake that cannot be redeemed in some way by Christ. There is no heart that cannot be softened or broken open.

The silly part of me just watched a YouTube video from Annie Get Your Gun and the song, “Anything You Can Do.” The Gift is the same way, ready to step up and “do anything better” than sin. Grace abounds [Romans 5:20].

I struggle so much with “condemnation,” a voice that is constantly reminding me how I fall short, how I sin, how I judge others, how I fail. But today, the message of Romans 5, though layered in hundreds of words, is the lifeline: the gift scales and overcomes my sin. There is nothing I can do that grace can’t do better.

This is not given to encourage bad behavior but to build confidence in the grace of God. As I participate in the dance of grace, letting go of sin through confession, there is room for other things, other thoughts, other behaviors.

As long as I continue to covet the things and abilities of others, I cannot appreciate what I already have. As long as I judge another, I cannot see their sacred heart. As long as I gossip, I cannot hear the still small voice of God.

I open my hands to your gift this day.

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Am I so sure that what I am saying about someone is true? When does gossip escalate to becoming slander? What is the motive for speaking badly of someone?

Romans 3:8a
Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—”Let us do evil that good may result”?

Motive! It gets me every time. I know the answer and I shrink at the thought of it. So often, I know, I speak badly of someone just to elevate myself. “Oh, listen to what ‘so and so’ did or said” and of course, the underlying implication is that I would never be so stupid or cruel or thoughtless. And yet, there I am being stupid, cruel, and thoughtless all the same.

I have a tendency already to talk and think at the same time. It’s like I have to hear myself before the thought is thoroughly formed. Generally, when I put my foot in my mouth, I just keep talking, back peddling as it were, and eventually, I manage to talk myself out of a corner. But too often, the words are said, the damage is done, and I have cast aspersions.

Over time, “gossip” has been symbolized by two women babbling in the back yard over a fence. It’s “koffee klatch” stuff, harmless. But really, isn’t it a form of slander?

Gossip and slander are sisters to pride. Why else would we imagine that it would be all right to say such things?

A man [or woman] who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man [or woman] of understanding holds his [her] tongue. [Proverbs 11:12]

Stop my tongue, this day, O Lord. Help me choose silence over chatter.

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The Jerusalem “elders” asked Paul to go through a purification rite to show “everyone” that he was still following the laws of Moses. But it didn’t work. Paul couldn’t change the crowd’s view of him. Am I just one more of the crowd?

Acts 21:27
When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him,…

It didn’t work in Paul’s time and it doesn’t work much better in our time. This power of the crowd is described several times in scriptures and generally, the outcome is always bad. The crowd that responded to Paul’s presence in the temple dragged him out of the temple, locked the doors, and started beating him to death [vs 27-32]. His “outward sign” was futile.

It only takes one or two folks to stir things up. Just look at the crazy email messages that are sent to hundreds and hundreds of people. The “shocking” and more outrageous ones are the most viral and travel the fastest. Some of these messages live on for years and years. This is a virtual version of crowd. Or how about gossip? It’s another example of crowd behavior. In my daughter’s high school, she has suffered tremendously from gossip about her character that has yet to abate, even after a full year. It is next to impossible to fight character bashing by crowd.

Crowd will not be swayed by outward signs once people have jumped on the bashing bandwagon. The ride is too easy. The encouragement to continue too tempting. The camaraderie too inviting.

I would love to say I have never done this! Unfortunately, I have climbed aboard several crowd bandwagons and done my own good share of complaining, jeering, gossiping, and backbiting. I am thoroughly ashamed and ask God to forgive me.

When Jesus faced the “character-bashers,” he was either silent or he asked pointed questions to reveal their heart motives.

I hear the Spirit ask me, “Do the words you speak carry light and life?” and “Do you know the heart of the one you judge?” and “Why are you repeating what you have heard?”

It’s time. It’s time to step away from the crowd.

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I do get some satisfaction knowing that Paul was flawed. And apparently, among his imperfections was his long-windedness. On this occasion, in Troas (part of modern day Turkey), the last day of his visit there, he talked and taught almost 24 hours!

Acts 20:7b, 9a, 11b
Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. … Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on…. [then] After talking until daylight, he [Paul] left.

Luke wrote that Paul talked “on and on” [NIV] indicates to me that this was a long session even for the devoted disciples.

I think it’s important to remember that Paul was not perfect. He was anointed by God and did marvelous works as a faithful apostle. He taught many. He changed the composition of the believers, opening hearts and doors to non-Jews. But he wasn’t perfect! In fact, he was on the extreme side of things. He had been a Pharisee before he accepted Christ as the Messiah. He already had a bent toward compulsiveness.

We must read Paul in this light. Besides, in a time when little was written down, how could anyone remember what Paul said in a 24 hour sermon? Unlike Jesus, Paul did not lean to parables and simplicity. He was a scholar… a theologian… an academician. Face it, to read the books and writings of scholars today can be daunting as well. It takes lots of energy and focus to capture the essence of what is written in these complex texts.

Each person brings his/her uniqueness to the kingdom story. The spirit of Jesus in me manifests differently than the spirit in you. Of course, there are common denominators, but there is that part of the story that only I can tell… that only I can live…. flaws and all.

Confession, I’m a big talker too. I think out loud and my listeners have to sort through the half-baked ideas to glom the big picture. I talk with such confidence and enthusiasm that people often miss my insecurities and fears. Sometimes I say things so fast that I manage to talk myself into trouble, putting my foot into my mouth, as they say, up to my thigh. And then, there’s the gossip factor. It’s all about talking… and talking… and talking.

And yet, in midst of the jabber, I also know there are truths. I love being a follower a Christ. I love that spiritual aspect of my life. Secret? I think I could talk about my faith, my God, and the Messiah for 24 hours too. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could guarantee to raise anyone from the dead who fell out a window.

In the end, I think I’m supposed to be quiet today. Let’s see how that goes.

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Acts 2:37b-38
“Brothers, what shall we do?” [the crowd] Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…”

Repent. It’s become such an inaccessible word over the years. It’s like a joke. How many times have we seen caricatures of “preachers” holding up a bible and shaking it over the crowd: “Repent you sinners!” Who can even hear the real message anymore?

And yet, it’s exactly “repent” that is the core to change. Repent is not just a religious term, it’s a personal experience. It’s a choice. Change… for good or evil… cannot happen without choice.

Personally, I find myself bemoaning over the same sins every day: gossip and judging others (to name two of the most popular). Both are extraordinarily nasty sins and I am ashamed to confess them. But the point here is that shedding these sins is not just about confession and the receiving of forgiveness… there is a point where I must “stop” and do something else instead.

Once, in counseling session some years ago, I was crying over these and other “besetting” sins (as though they have a mind and life of their own) and how I struggled with them. In the end, the revelation was simple: “I didn’t want it badly enough” … I didn’t want to change enough. I didn’t want to stop enough. The benefits of continuing were still outweighing the unknown of stopping. Who would I be if I stop this behavior? Who would I be if I change?

So often, people (including me) are more comfortable with our current state because it’s a “known.” But to change or “repent” means we are moving into an unknown territory. We are pioneering into a future we cannot predict. Fear, doubt, insecurities, anxiety also jump into the fray.

I am a bit of a hypocrite. I say I like change, but really, I mean change around me… I can adapt to that kind of change. But, I’m different when it comes to my own behaviors. Those changes are much easier to avoid.

So, today, one challenge: stop and turn away from gossip. If what I say cannot be said with the person standing there beside me, it shouldn’t be said. End of story.

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