Thursday is for Discipleship
My friend and fellow EFCA Pastor from the great state of Pennsylvania, Matt Mitchell, has just released a book called Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue (CLC Publications, 2013). As I’ve said before, I think that sinful gossip is more destructive to the loving unity of the church than adultery or other “big sins” that get talked about a lot from the pulpit. So, I’m glad to see someone address this problem in a biblical, practical, and helpful manner.
This past Summer, I attended a workshop that Matt led on this topic. I have been interested in what Matt was writing for some time (since he asked me to read some early drafts) and went to his seminar with the specific desire of asking if he would do an interview with me at the Chosenrebel’s Blog. During one of the breaks, we got to talking about why we are so attracted to gossip, and I asked Matt if he would share some of his answers.
Matt: The Bible says that gossip is like an irresistible “choice morsel” of food (Prov 18:8, 26:22). Apparently, our fallen hearts are spring-loaded to be attracted to bad stories about other people like a glutton is attracted to another plate-full. There are a number of heart-level motivations that can drive our sinful gossip: jealousy, envy, fear of others, a lust for power and control, vengeance, and so on.
Chosenrebel: What do you think is one of the chief drivers of gossip in our time and culture?
Matt: The one that you and I talked the most about that day was a ruling desire to escape from boredom. This is especially true in our entertainment culture: gossip columns, gossip shows on television and gossip blogs with the latest story about whichever celebrity is popular (or unpopular) at this moment. Gossip is big business in show business. The entertainment industry has tapped into the desire of the masses to escape from boredom. We talk about other people to have something to do.
I know that I can certainly be a busybody when I’m bored. I hate to admit it, but I was hooked on soap operas when I was a teenager. I had to watch General Hospital before I went out on my after-school paper route. What is that except a malignant desire to be entertained by bad stories?
We rationalize it. “It is not malicious gossip,” we say. And that is true. But it isn’t love either, is it? We need to remember that our Lord Jesus said we would have to give an account “for every careless word” (Matt. 12:36), not just the malicious ones.
I say in the book that I have a new slogan that I have been preaching to myself recently:
The foolish people of the world do not exist for my entertainment.
Chosenrebel: I loved that phrase. It had the ring of truth. Could you explain that a bit more for my readers.
Matt: It’s a hard one to accept, but we often act as if other people’s foolishness exists for our entertainment. We love to talk about the foolish, shameful things that people do. There are many places on the Internet that are devoted to laughing at the folly of others. Isn’t that the point of most of the “reality” shows on television? It makes us feel good about ourselves to think how stupid other people are.
But that isn’t how God treats people, is it? God loves people and treats them with much more mercy than they deserve. God loves me, and I have been a fool! But God, in love, sent His own Son to die for fools in order to make us wise. The “gospel escape” from boredom is active love, active service and active mercy for other people–including those who do not deserve it one bit.
It’s good to know what is motivating us so that we can ask God to change our hearts and then change our tongues.
Chosenrebel: That’s another great phrase from your book–“the gospel escape.” Matt, I have already recommended your book to our congregations on both campuses and have told the church that a major emphasis in my teaching this year is going to be taking dead aim on gossip as one of the greatest enemies of love and unity in the church. Where can people get it?
Matt: Readers can preview and download Resisting Gossip at CLC Publications’ Facebook page. You can read the table of contents, foreword by Ed Welch of CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation), introduction, and first chapter, all for free!
I also have posted a lot of supplementary resources at resistinggossip.com.
Chosenrebel: Matt, thanks for coming into the blog for this interview. Maybe later in the month you can come back and field questions from readers.
Matt: If we can agree on a time, I would love to do that.