Gossip (Nehemiah 6:4-9)

Gossip (Nehemiah 6:4-9)

Gossip is cruel. It is what people who lack the physical strength or capacity to enforce their will resort to when all else fails. It’s what middle school girls do when they try and shame someone into conformity or to make themselves look better. It’s what boys do when they display their own insecurities in their words. They make idle threats through supposition and mindless chatter about someone else’s business. They assign their own motive, thoughts and emotions to the actions of another and call them into account.

 In reality gossip is just hot air designed to look and feel like fire. If you are not careful you will feel the brunt of it and think you were really burned, when the truth is, it has no power over you. It’s just idle breath and it says more about those who breath out such musings than those that are being spoken about. Sure in the moment it may seem like all eyes are on you, but know this that there will come a day when God will review every idle word that has ever been spoken (Matthew 12:36) and those who are guilty of gossip will give a full account.

Nehemiah was not above being gossiped about. When all else failed Sanballat resorted to gossip. He sent an open letter (meaning anyone could read the contents) to Nehemiah. In the letter he slander’s Nehemiah’s character and asks again for a meeting.

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And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands. (Nehemiah 6:4-9 ESV)

So what is especially ironic about this letter is that Sanballat accuses Nehemiah of conspiring against the king. Then he asks for a meeting saying, “come let us take counsel together.” This was incredibly stupid on Sanballat’s part for the simple reason that if word ever got back to the king of this letter, it looks like Sanballat is wanting to make a plan with Nehemiah to rebel against the king. Indeed what was intended as slander for Nehemiah could very well be taken and used as evidence to convict Sanballat of treason! But don’t miss the point, that is what gossip does… in attempting to malign the character of someone else, it reveals the corrupt character of the one who is speaking, texting, writing, sharing!

So how does Nehemiah handle gossip? He prays, asks for God’s strength, and goes back to work. This takes incredible strength and trust on his part to know that God will take up his defense. Nehemiah knows he doesn’t need to waste his breath defending himself against lies.

Sometimes when we take up for ourselves, even though we are in the right, we look like we are in the wrong. Nehemiah gets that. He trusts God to sort this out. God will judge what has been said, God will handle those who have said it. In the mean times he has a wall to build.

James 4:11-12 (Devotional Thought)

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12 ESV)

I used to play flag–football on Sunday afternoons. Our team got really good and we started a league so we could play other teams. We started out just calling the rules ourselves like if we stepped out of bounds we would call it or if we stopped short of a touchdown we would call it. But we soon learned that this wasn’t the best way to oversee a game. Generally both teams had a difference of opinion on every call. Someone would say we stepped out, but we were sure we remained in. Someone would say that they grabbed our flag before we crossed the goal line and it went on and on.

That’s the way it is in life sometimes. We look for the mistakes of others while hoping that our own mistakes go unnoticed. We are quick to talk about a friend who stabbed us in the back by gossiping about us, but we don’t realize that we are guilty of the very same sin when we talk about them. James reminds us that we are responsible to honor God, not pick on others who have fallen short. God will judge them fairly and He doesn’t need your help. Everyone will pay for their sin in one of two ways. They will face eternal destruction in Hell or they will embrace forgiveness in Christ. Either way, who are we to condemn someone that Christ has forgiven or who will face God’s wrath?

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3 Thoughts on Facebook, being Missional and the Movies

I have to confess that my Facebook feed has brought me much grief over the last few weeks. Facebook has been an excellent tool in my own life to help me see pockets of hypocrisy and need for growth… it’s also given me a window into the lives and thoughts of others. What saddens me the most is how easily I engage in a debate about the trivial… like my opinion matters more than the person I’m talking too. Rarely ever do we communicate well in these short gusts of phrase and the opportunity for miscommunication is high.

It’s been awful to watch the discussion around the Noah Movie. Before the movie was released there were already debates waging about whether Christians should go see this movie or not. Then the mud began to sling. To be fair I don’t know that anyone on my feed called any person out in particular but there were a lot of straw men put down… Straw men are what we build and destroy to prove a case when no one enters the debate with us. In our minds we may picture real people we are too cowardly to approach or we may just be trying to show an assumed audience that we are with them by verbally attacking a mutually disliked position. How easily Facebook distracts us from the real mission field.

The problem develops when we allow a trivial thing like a movie to cause an apparent rift between brothers and sisters in Christ. We say things in general to the public we would never say to each other in person. A difference of opinion on a movie (mainly whether or not it’s worth someones time to go see it) is all it takes to cause a virtual schism of my Facebook friends. No matter which side of the debate you are on it becomes so easy to build your straw men, aim in the general direction of the opposition, and fire your volleys of well put phrase.

It’s so easy to tear down… So hard to build up. That’s why after some time of thought and reflection I came up with these 3 guidelines to keep me from tearing down my friends (real or imagined) on Facebook over trivial things like the movies.

1. I am accountable to God for everything I post. The following passage is talking about food but given the current conversation there is room to make application to how one posts on Facebook.

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. (Romans 14:12-20 ESV)

2. Not everything that I’m free to do, is good to do. The following passage also deals with food (in a different way). The gist of the passage indicates that my personal freedom isn’t the most important aspect of my life and that even personal freedom when it comes across a brother of weaker conscience can be limited for the sake of his good and God’s glory.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience– I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:23-33 ESV)

3. Correction and discipline need to be applied in private and on a personal level. There are those occasions where a person has sinned against you and you need to address their sin. They may have sinned against you on Facebook or other areas of the public forum. Their sin still needs to be addressed in a private and personal manner.

“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. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
(Matthew 18:15-19 ESV)

I’m not there yet. I have a long way to go. I found that out the other day in the midst of the whole Noah debacle. I thought I’d add to the fray and call some folks out in “general” who were fighting straw men… Little did I realize I was falling to the same temptation.

How about you? What are your thoughts on facebook, being missional and the movies? What other points would you make or add?