Sunday, July 12, 2009

With These Lips

"With These Lips"

Pastor Tom Millner

July 12, 2009

SpiritSong Worship Center

Exodus 20:16, Matthew 15:10-11; 16 - 20, Ephesians 4:29-32

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37-40

This statement sums up the total of the Christian's walk. There is a single message you will hear in every sermon preached in this Church: God loves us so much that He gave the life of His only Son so that we can be made whole before God when we act in that knowledge and because of that we are called to put love Him above all else and to love each other with the same degree of love we give ourselves! If you aren't hearing that in the sermons from this pulpit, ask one of us to explain where it was in the message! Today's message is no exception.

What is this thing called gossip? Why is it so inviting and easy to engage? What's the real harm in it? What do I do about it?

Wikipedia defines gossip as follows: Gossip is idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. It forms one of the oldest and most common means of sharing (unproven) facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and other variations into the information transmitted. The term also carries implications that the news so transmitted (usually) has a personal or trivial nature, as opposed to normal conversation.

You know its gossip when the voice lowers, the eyebrow raises! Gossip is the only sound that travels faster than sound! Seems the only time we dislike gossip is when it's about us. We have a whole society built upon gossip. What about "inquiring minds"? We've even raised it to an honorable place on line and in newsprint "The Gossip Column." There are TV shows filled with it. But, embracing gossip is like sleeping with a 30 foot python; one day you'll wake up being devoured by it!

Four preachers met for a friendly gathering. During the conversation one preacher said, "Our people come to us and pour out their hearts, confess certain sins and needs. Let's do the same. Confession is good for the soul." One confessed he had a fondness for extra dry martinis. Another confessed she had a fascination with seedy movies. The third confessed that he loved placing wagers and a good game of poker. When it came time for the fourth one, he wouldn't confess. The others pressed him…. "Come on now, we confessed ours. What's your secret or vice? Finally he said, "It's gossiping and I can hardly wait to get out of here!"

Why is gossip so appealing? What is there about a juicy piece of information, a morsel, and a tidbit? What is there that makes us lend an ear or whisper a word? There's the complex answer and then the simple one. Let's start simple and build from there. Notice in the spelling of a word we don't like – S I N… what's in the center? "I, I, I, I, I, I" Me, me, me, me, me, and me! Life's all about ME! But of course, the "me" that I see which is the "me" I strive for you never to see, will be the source of destruction for both you and me, don't you see?

We participate in gossip because we want to be "in the know." Information is POWER! I heard that preached in corporate America over and again. Never mind that being in the know comes from ones who don't know! If you tell me all you know then I'll know what you know, plus what I know – then I'll know more than you know! So one of the reasons we engage in gossip is to make us believe we have the knowledge edge. That can feel good for a while, but it doesn't last. It's like that first hit on the crack pipe… or the first drink...If the first was so good, the second must be better. The addiction starts and the high from the first will never be reached again. Just can't get enough to get away from "me." So, let's talk about you, or you, or better still, about YOU.

We participate in gossip because it often puts others in a worse light than we see ourselves. Honey, I didn't want to say this but – you know, he's got a trail of woes that would make cow manure look like stepping stones! The worse I paint the picture of you, the less light is reflected on me. When all the buzz about you has fizzled, though, I still have to live with me… now I have to live with guilt as well. Boy, does that make me angry!

Anger – emotion: another reason why we gossip. "I've just been holding this in for too long now. I have to tell somebody… Did you know that Elmer chose that sleazy hussy's brownies over my hand made chocolate fudge?" Because we're angry, hurt, feel rejected, left out, overlooked, disregarded, neglected, or otherwise disenfranchised, we want to hurt back. As our Sister Audrey said in her sermon a few weeks ago; "Hurt people hurt people." We conveniently forget about Christ's admonition to "turn the other cheek." Instead of dealing with our own iceberg, we want to sink someone else's ship! Proverbs 26: 20-24 reads: "……

So what's so bad about a little gossip? We were just sitting around chit-chatting about this and that and about how we feel about stuff. What's wrong with that? "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." How does gossip square with that?

When I was a freshman in college, the Pastor of my home church was accused of trying to kiss my childhood sweetheart. My Mother, who was faithful to write me every week until she became an invalid more than 10 years ago, penned the news to me. When I was home from college one weekend later, I said to my girlfriend (with her sister present) that I could not fathom how the Pastor could have done such a thing – I found it hard to believe. Two weeks later, my mother wrote me that the father of my childhood sweetheart (who happened to be a Deacon in the church) had called him to demand that she "shut me up" or be sued for slander. I was appalled. What on earth was going on, I thought. Here I was 120 miles from home (before cell phone days) with virtually no contact with anyone from the community, yet I was being accused of slander – for WHAT? I subsequently found out that my girlfriend's sister worked in a local factory alongside the boyfriend of my childhood sweetheart whose father had called my mother… Get the picture? My words of "disbelief" at the unfathomable happening had been translated to my calling the girl a liar. I was so traumatized by the whole incident that I allowed the enemy to turn me away from the church for many years – all because of gossip! I can still feel the pangs of grief over the whole incident. Gossip destroys – it kills – His Spirit in us!

Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome, chapter 1, puts gossip right up there with murder, idolatry, sexual immorality, and stealing. I don't see the fruit of the Spirit nor loving God and others anywhere in any one of these! You don't take a gun, shoot your neighbor and say; "just a little murder." You don't stab a passer by and say; "just a little chest wound." Yet, we dare to make light of a "little gossip." What's it gonna harm? After all, I can say what's on my heart... Jeremiah 17:9 says; "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Jesus said in Matthew that out of the mouth comes all sorts of evil from the heart. The Bible forbids us to both utter what is untrue and to utter what may be true but the uttering of which arises from a mood or motivation that is aimed at someone else's ruin.

Hearsay is never permitted as testimony in a court of law. In Biblical times two witnesses were required for a testimony to be valid. Both had to be of reputable character. The Mishnah (a distillation of rabbinic wisdom) stated that anyone who was commonly known to be loose-tongued or mean-spirited was disqualified as a witness – the testimony was worthless at all times and in all circumstances. Also, if the person gives false testimony and the accused is found innocent, the one giving false testimony is sentenced to the fate of the accused if he had been found guilty. Furthermore, if found guilty by virtue of one's testimony, should the penalty be death, the one giving the testimony delivers the death blow!

Something more… One would think that the best way to act sometimes is to just ignore the gossiping person and say nothing. Not good enough in ancient Israel! If you listened to gossip and did nothing to denounce it as gossip, you were deemed guilty of gossip yourself on the spot and subject to the punishment for bearing false witness!

So, if gossip is so bad for us and the Body of Christ of which we are each a part, what do we do about it?


T Is it True?

H Is it Helpful?

I Is it Inspiring?

N Is it Necessary?

K Is it King?

If what I'm about to say doesn't pass that test, I keep my mouth shut!!!

Psalm 19:14 "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my rock, and my Redeemer.