This is where the deer and antelope play…literally. It’s home on the range. It’s where seldom is heard a disparaging word (I believe the original word was disparaging, not discouraging, though I could be wrong) and the skies are not cloudy all day. I can attest to this. There is seldom heard a disparaging OR discouraging word because there are very few humans out here on the rangelands of Wyoming. I can also attest to the fact that, even on the cloudiest days in the stormiest seasons, the sun cannot resist the urge to take a peek at least once through the clouds.
Unfortunately, where there are humans, there are disparaging words. I don’t care where you go, you’re going to encounter strife when you’re amongst people. And it is so very discouraging.
Proverbs tells us that there are six things the Lord hates, and actually seven that are an abomination to Him. He hates haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.
Now, to me, one who spreads strife among brothers isn’t lying, since a lying tongue is already mentioned. It’s so easy to spread strife over petty irritations. Proverbs 26:30 says that for lack of wood a fire goes out. Where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.
To me, this would suggest that even though we might blow it from time to time and irritate a brother or sister in Christ, that person needs to show grace to us and remain silent about the offense and give us a chance to repent and grow. If they go complaining to others about us, this is not grace. It spreads strife. I appreciate it when I have someone I can trust to keep my deepest secrets. I’m talking about little things, here, not abuse of any kind, or breaking of the law. That’s a whole other subject. I’m talking about daily irritations, words spoken out of turn, a lost temper. There are times when the truth needs to be told. But not over petty human complaints or irritations or a clash of personalities.
And you know what? I’ve been convicted recently that if I even listen to someone who is spreading strife, even though I don’t repeat that person’s words, I’m partaking in that sin. It was a painful dose of reality to me.
I’ll go a step further and say that since love covers a multitude of sins, then perhaps I’m not showing enough love if I complain about the words or actions of my fellow believers. I think that works in a local community, as well. Proverbs 20:19 warns us not to associate with a gossip.
Now, honestly, we all have different weaknesses, but there are apparently a lot of people in our world who are seduced by gossip. I mean, really, it’s kind of difficult to separate a kindly interest in the welfare of others, and the gentle slide from interest to attitude to gossip that hurts the reputation of a fellow believer. Have you ever walked into a room and had the odd feeling that others have been talking about you? If you’ve been listening to the gossip of others, then you’re eventually going to start wondering what those others have been saying about you. Tables have turned. Ouch.
When I was a little girl, one of my friends came to me in the playground and told me that another one of our friends was going to Juvy. I thought that was cool, and I told everyone that my friend was going to Juvy! How exciting! I thought it was a special honor. It wasn’t until that friend came after me with her buddies to beat me up that I wondered what, exactly, Juvy was. I found out. In fact, our principal called us in to his office and explained to me that I should not be gossiping about another classmate. It was innocent then, because I had no idea what Juvenile Hall was at the time. I was eight! But I learned a good lesson. Don’t repeat things. Just don’t.
My husband, Mel, is the opposite of a gossip. People come up to me all the time and tell me how much they love my husband because he treated them so kindly in the ER. And I have a stupid look on my face because he never mentions a word about seeing them. He can’t. And I would never want him to. Medical personnel are legally bound to honor a patient’s privacy. I believe we should all honor the privacy of others.
I Corinthians 13 tells us that love is patient and kind and does not envy or boast, nor is it proud or self-seeking or easily angered. Love doesn’t keep an account of wrongs, nor does it delight in evil. Love always rejoices with the truth, it protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. This kind of love does not gossip, because it chooses to think the best of others, despite all. Love covers a multitude of sins.
I want to be that kind of Christian. I want to believe the best in people, and I want to look for the best in those around me.
Emily Dickinson wrote a poem: Some say a word is dead when it is said, but I say it just begins to live that day.