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Gossip and Openness in the Body of Christ
God calls on Christians to disclose their problems to one another (Galatians 6:2; James 5:16). But is it ever right to discuss another’s problem with a third party?

Like so many issues, when viewing things under grace we are not given black and white prescriptions on exactly how to handle each situation.

Sometimes it can be misleading to hear only one side. The Bible encourages us to seek further consultation. Failing to confer on important matters is a common error in discernment.

  • Proverbs 18:17 ‘The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.’

The Bible lays out key principles, the biggest being love. The best way to love someone is not one-size fits all. Believers are supposed to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading while growing in their own discernment.

As they grow in discernment, they will develop an ability to sense what the most loving stance is to take in each situation.

On the one hand, Scripture speaks strongly against gossip.

  • Proverbs 20:19 - “…do not associate with a gossip.” (See also Proverbs 11:13a; 16:27,28; 17:9b)
  • Romans 1:29; 2 Corinthians 12:20 – Both differentiate gossip from slander and condemn it as the result of a depraved mind, unfitting for Christians.
  • 1 Timothy 5:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:11 – Both condemn “busybodies” who “speak about things not proper to mention.”
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It’s best to keep what someone confessed to yourself most of the time. But there are times when you should bring it to the attention of others.

Likewise, some passages defend the idea of confidentiality.

  • Proverbs 11:13 – “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.”
  • Proverbs. 17:9a - “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.”
  • Proverbs 20:19 – “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.”
  • Proverbs 25:9-10 - “…don’t reveal the secret of another, lest he who hears it reproach you, and the evil report about you not pass away.”
  • Matthew 18:15 - “If your brother sins, go and reprove him in private…” This implies the desirability of resolving the matter one on one.

We have all seen the wreckage that gossip can cause: feelings hurt, trust destroyed, relationships ruined – and above all, an atmosphere of mistrust and fear.

People feel reluctant to open up out of fear people will broadcast it. Also, people may not open up about serious problems, or may sanitize their versions of those problems unless we can offer them the safety of confidentiality.

Merely avoiding gossip isn’t enough. While the Scripture above shows a value for confidentiality between friends, the following passages signal a scriptural value for transparency. 

Take, for example, disciplinary cases involving objective and damaging sin.

  • Matthew 18:16, 17 – The same passage that recommends resolving it in private commands making it public if necessary.
  • Galatians 6:1 – It must be a public matter if someone was “caught in sin.”
  • 1 Timothy 5:20 – Paul tells Timothy that an elder who “continues in sin” should be rebuked “in the presence of all.”
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Gossip vs. Conferral

You may need to ask yourself a few questions to determine if you’re conferring or gossiping.

  • Will the person with whom you are conferring be able to give you wise counsel?
  • Is the driving force concern or curiosity?
  • Are you seeking help or are you broadcasting someone’s lurid secrets to get a response from people?
  • Are we actually looking for input or are we simply venting frustration?

The Bible condemns and prohibits gossip. Yet, it commends conferral for the sake of building up fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Christians should relate to each other on the basis of responsible trust. If you trust another brother or sister enough to confide in him or her, you should also trust that person to use that information responsibly.

However, you should also demonstrate trustworthiness by maintaining confidentiality when someone shares embarrassing personal details that are neither harmful to the person nor sinful.

How much detail should we give if we choose to confer?

Confer without using someone’s name when possible. Limit adding extraneous details that won’t aid the understanding of the person with whom you’re conferring.

Have A Wonderful Weekend 😊

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