How the Fire Spreads

Today I am bringing you the second in a series of blogs written by my friend and co-laborer in Christ, Pastor Bruce Roeder on the topic of gossip and slander. Bruce writes a daily blog at The Counselors Desk


How the Fire Spreads

The quickest way to start a forest fire of slander and gossip is to accuse someone and not give them an opportunity to defend themselves or explain themselves. John Calvin put it this way:

It is a sign of a perverse and treacherous disposition to wound the good name of another, when he has no opportunity of defending himself.--John Calvin

Ouch! I think our friend John Calvin was in touch with his own depravity.

The doctrine of total depravity teaches us that we do not know ourselves and what we are capable of (Jer. 17:9). When accused, we react and instead of reacting in a God-honoring way we often react with counter charges or counter accusations. Scripture tells us what to do if we have something against another person or seek to accuse them we need to go to them first and try to resolve it.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. Matt. 18:15, ESV

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Gal. 6:1, ESV

Scripture goes even further when Jesus says if you know someone has something against you, you are to go them and make it right before you worship.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matt 5:23-24, ESV

Never Right to Return Evil for Evil

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. Rom. 12:17, ESV

It’s never right to slander or gossip, even if you’ve been slandered or gossiped against first. That’s how the forest fire that begins as a spark turns into a raging forest fire that becomes impossible to contain. The flesh wants to lash out when we are accused and cannot defend ourselves and we do it’s like pouring gas on a fire instead of water.

If you suspect or know that someone has an accusation against you then Matthew 5:23-24 applies to you. The gospel doesn’t really give us the easy way out, does it?

Sadly, even if a person does what the Scripture requires it does not mean it will be received well or even received at all. If this is the case then Matthew 18:15-17 gives us further guidance as to how to handle the situation.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. Matt. 18:15-17, ESV

If the problem is not resolved biblically, according to Jesus’ teaching then it will only get worse until it involves the whole church. If gossip and slander are not nipped in the bud via the application of the gospel (the above verses and many, many more) then it is evitable that the forest fire of conflict will spread via the flames of gossip and slander.

(See Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker, for more information on how to nip a conflict in the bud by applying the gospel at the first signs of a conflict.)

Bridges calls gossip and slander respectable sins for a couple of reasons. First we tend to overlook them and only concern ourselves with the big stuff, like adultery and theft and so forth. Second, we have the attitude in regards to respectable sins that “everyone does it.”

In other words not everyone is a wife-beater, adulterer, arsonist, axe murderer or rapist but all are gossips and slanderers (including myself!) We tell ourselves that since everyone does it then it is somehow justifiable.

But look what John MacArthur writes about James 3:7-8:

James’s point in these two verses is simply that the human tongue is innately uncontrollable and untamable. It is wild, undisciplined, irresponsible, irrepressible, and savage. In what might be called its primitive or intrinsic evil, it combats every effort to control and direct it.

MacArthur, John: James. Chicago, Ill. : Moody Press, 1998, S. 157

Tomorrow we will conclude this excellent series!