I recently came home from work to discover that my trash bin at the curb had fallen over, dogs had ripped open the bags, and now trash had scattered over my neighbor's yard. I quickly picked up the can and grabbed a new bag to collect the garbage. It was a frustrating few moments. Even a bit embarrassing. I began to consider something worse than the garbage being scattered over my neighbor's yard, people who spread garbage in our community. I'm not talking about physical garbage, but the garbage of rumor, slander, and gossip. Let's define each of these terms and then address them from a biblical point of view...
Rumor: Unverified information that is circulating.
Slander: False, malicious, or unverified information that causes harm to a person's character or reputation.
Gossip: Unconstrained conversation that often involves rumor, slander, or both.
Romans 1:29 cautions against gossip and lists it among murder! "They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips."
How do we handle gossip? It will eventually come to your door. I'm afraid that many people have become garbage dumps. The reason we take our garbage to the dump and not our neighbors yard is because the dump accepts it, our neighbors do not! People who have become "garbage dumps" provide a listening ear to the gossip, but justify their behavior by not allowing it to continue. Yet, time and again, they welcome the garbage. People keep showing up with more garbage and it's accepted. We need Christians who will stop being a garbage dump for gossip. Don't accept it! When you listen to the gossip, even if you don't spread it, you have become a dump.
Some have become a garbage truck. Have you ever been driving behind a garbage truck and most of the trash stays in the truck, but some of it is flying out? Some people not only gather the garbage of others, they have no regard to where it flies. They have unconstrained lips!
How do we avoid being a garbage dump or a garbage truck?
Ephesians 4:29, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers."
1. Shut down gossip when you hear it. You don't want to become a garbage dump. The Bible teaches, "For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down" (Prov. 26:20).
2. Protect the victims of gossip. Gossip always wounds people. Unconstrained conversation damages relationships. "He who spreads slander is a fool" (Prov. 10:18).
3. Don't be guilty of spreading the garbage. Gossip actually causes us to lose focus of our mission and creates disunity. The Bible says, "A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends (Prov. 16:28).
Ultimately, GOSSIP is contrary to the GOSPEL. If you want authentic unity in a church, then we need to work harder on spreading the GOSPEL.
Many of us are familiar with Henry W. Longfellow’s words in his poem entitled, “Paul Revere’s Ride.” It was the signal orchestrated by Revere at the brink of the American Revolutionary War. This secret signal’s purpose was to warn the patriots of which route to anticipate the arrival of British troops.
Where could these lanterns be seen by everyone, but yet remain undetected? A common architectural feature of churches is the Lantern Tower. The Old North Church in Boston had just such a feature.
Churches with a lantern tower often have a floor plan that resembles a cross (called "cruciform"). The lantern tower is positioned at the junction where each branch comes together. The lantern tower of First Baptist Church Mount Sterling is separate from the steeple and rests above the church’s lobby (precisely at the intersection of the cross floor plan).
The purpose of the lantern tower is two-fold. First, it allows light into the building. It is a symbolic picture of emphasizing the importance of the cross by “shining light on the cross.” Second, the lantern tower shines light into the community, a symbolic picture of the church’s role in “shining the light of Christ” into a dark world.
Architecture has always been important to me. I appreciate the great symbolism that architects incorporate into their designs. However, I must continually remind myself that the “function” of the church is more important than the “form” of the church. May the symbols be reminders of our purpose. We must never think that the lantern tower can replace our responsibility to illuminate the cross in our own lives. Furthermore, we must never think that the lantern tower can replace our duty to spread the light of the Gospel into our community. If given a choice between maintaining a “lantern tower” or equipping people to be light in our community, may we always choose the authentic over the symbolic.
This month I am preaching a series of messages on spiritual sight. The Bible clearly speaks about spiritual blindness, which is complete darkness from spiritual matters. However, as Christians, our problem is not spiritual blindness. Instead, we suffer from other types of spiritual visual impairments such as: nearsightedness, farsightedness, or hindsightedness.
Those who suffer from Spiritual Nearsightedness see things in close range without difficulty, but have a difficult time looking ahead. Proverbs 14:8 says, "The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit." In other words, the wise man looks ahead and the fool is blindsided by deceit. When we look ahead, we can avoid the pitfalls that would cause us trouble.
Those who suffer from Spiritual Farsightedness see things at a distance without difficulty, but struggle with seeing things up close. The Spiritually Farsighted may see their relationship with Christ as "a ticket to heaven" in the future as opposed to a walk with Him today.
Those who suffer from Spiritual Hindsightedness focus on things in the past. This person is always looking back at past victories, difficulties, and situations. They are focused on how good things used to be or what "could have been."
As God to give you 20/20 Spiritual Vision to see things from His perspective. Lord, be Thou my vision!
Dr. Chris Dortch has been in ministry since 1993. His blog is aimed to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."