Today we moved on to the ninth commandment in our Bible Explored group, looking at false testimony against your neighbour. Now it may be that originally this command applied to public testimony in a court of law, but as we have seen Jesus interpreted other commandments in light of the attitude of our hearts and our private thoughts and motives. So we looked at this commandment in light of Prov 26:18-28, looking most especially at the sin of gossip.
Just like lust, gossip is one of those subjects we perhaps don’t talk about as much as should. But gossip is big business. It sells newspapers and magazines, it permeates websites and social media (and come to think of it, so does lust). Separating out legitimate information from slander or libel is becoming increasingly difficult in our Internet age, and yet it is so important that we do so. Rumour and gossip blight the lives of so many people, particularly the young, and can lead to depression, anxiety or even suicide.
So we looked at why we find gossip so attractive – the power of having some secret knowledge about someone else and the ability to use that knowledge for your own end.
We looked at why gossip is so destructive – the humiliation of broken confidence, the stigma of bad reputation, the battle to win back trust and truth.
We looked at where to draw the line between sharing confidences and spreading gossip. We decided one sprang from a genuine love for the other person, the other from a desire to put the other person down. So we thought about how carefully we needed to disseminate requests for prayer, and to seek permission from the person we want to pray for.
We also came back again once more to the need for a loving, trusting community, and how strong, trusting relationships within the body of Christ form a powerful antidote to gossip.
And then we finished by looking at the trial of Jesus – Matthew 22:57-75 – and compared the witnesses at Jesus’ trial and Peter’s denial down in the courtyard with Jesus honestly giving testimony about himself.
So much useful, practical teaching, and one that caused us all to think more carefully about the words we use.