Gossip

We all know gossip is bad.  In Romans 1, Paul lists a variety of sins that condemn people. In this list with sexual sins, murder, and others, he also includes gossip. But what exactly is gossip?

Not everything you say negative about someone else is gossip. There are times when it is okay to warn someone of another person’s character, or to go to others for advice on how to help someone.  We recognize that Jesus warned his disciples of certain people.  For instance, he told them to avoid the influence of the Scribes and Pharisees (Mark 8:15).  Paul names Alexander the coppersmith as someone who did him much harm (2 Timothy 4:14). So how do we define gossip? The truth is it is not easy to define.

Therefore, rather than giving a definition of gossip, I want share with you three categories. These categories are the ones I find in Scripture that help us better understand what is meant by gossip. I hope you will use these categories as an intellectual grid.

3 Categories of Gossip

The first category is gossip includes slandering someone.  To slander means to attack or harm someone’s character with something that is either untrue, or you do not know if it is true. In 2 Corinthians 12:20 the word translated gossip (or some have whisperings) means to slander someone in secret, or slandering with whisper. If what you are saying about someone is untrue, or you do not know whether it is true or not, then when you share it with others you could be gossiping.

The second category is to betray a confidence. There are things that friends or family tell you with the hopes that it will stay between you and them. They do not want others to know, but they have decided to share it with you.   Two different Proverbs come to mind. First, we have Proverbs 11:13 that says a “Gossip betrays a confidence, while a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Also Proverbs 20:19 says a “gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid someone who talks too much.”  If someone tells you something, believing it will be kept between you and them, then to betray that confidence is gossip.

The final category is connected with the person who is a busybody. The person who simply wants to know everyone’s business and then desires to share it with anyone they can. In 1 Timothy 5:13 Paul uses the phrase “house-to-house.” The imagery is someone finds out something “juicy” about a person, and then decides to make the rounds letting everyone know about it.  The person has idle time on his/her hands and instead of using that time to serve the Lord, uses it to share the latest “important” news.

Effects of Gossip

So why is this bad? Two reasons come to mind.  We are told in Proverbs 16:28 that gossip divides close friends. If someone tells you something that you share, or if you slander a friend behind their back, then eventually you will no longer have that friendship. Proverbs 26:20 states that just like wood adds fuel to a fire, gossip intensifies a fight. Gossip is a relationship destroyer.

Gossip is also a reputation destroyer. Gossip can make others feel differently about a person. It can forever hurt someone.  Once it is out, it can have a life of its own.

A Word of Warning

Let me end with a warning. Gossip is not easy to overcome. We are warned three times in Proverbs that gossip is like a tasty morsel.  When you eat delicious food, your immediate response is to want more. Gossip elicits that same desire within us.  Social scientists state we want more because when we gossip we feel powerful. We have information no one else has and therefore people have to listen to us. We want more because we feel included. It makes us feel like we are part of a group if we are sharing and hearing gossip. And it makes us feel better about ourselves. If we can talk about how bad someone else is, we don’t have to examine our own weaknesses.

Since we know the temptation to gossip is so strong we need to be aware of it and battle against it.  Before you share information about someone else with another person, check your heart, make sure you are not slandering, make sure you are not sharing something you were supposed to keep private, and avoid always being in others private affairs. If we did this we would go a long way in avoiding gossip.

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Women in Combat: A Christian’s Thoughts

For years now in the United States we have allowed women to serve in the military. As warfare has evolved many of these women found themselves in combat situations. However, the official policy of the military was that women would not be allowed to serve in direct combat. This policy changed today. Some view this as a great victory for equality. Women are now no longer limited in how they will serve their country. Others claim this will result in the military lacking effectiveness.

I want to share with you today my thoughts on this issue. These are the thoughts of a Christian trying to think through the issues of our day.

There is not much said in the New Testament concerning war. Since the church is not a nation that has to defend our borders with warfare, nor are we given an earthly promise land that we have to occupy through warfare, direct teaching on the subject of war is sparse. There are principles that Christians wrestle with regarding going to war and killing, but no instructions regarding a standing army.

However, the Hebrew Bible (Genesis-Malachi) does speak to warfare. It is from these Scriptures that I want to turn as I share my thoughts on women in combat.

Numbers 1:2, 3 provides the pattern for those who would fight in Israel’s wars. We are told in those verses:

“Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company.

This pattern is that men, who were 20 and older, would participate in the wars that were in Israel’s future. Beginning in verse 20 of chapter 1 we see the census taken and we are told how many “men twenty years old or more” were available to serve in the army. This pattern, of men fighting in combat, holds true in the battles conducted by Israel (cf. Joshua 1:14).*

If we were to summarize the teaching of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) on this subject, it would be fair to say that men fought the wars. This was not simply a matter of choice by Israel, but the pattern God gave to His people.

The question is whether this pattern is something that is merely descriptive for the time it was written, or if there is something deeper. Or to frame it another way: Do we lose anything by allowing women to fight our wars?

My thoughts come from the standpoint of someone who believes that men and women are both image bearers of God, but who have been created by God to complement one another. Thus, men and women have unique roles in God’s plan. It appears obvious, and some studies have proven this true, that men are more readily equipped for front-line and direct combat situations. I believe it is from this truth that God wanted the men of Israel to be involved in war, while women stayed back to care for the families.

Another danger comes to my mind. This danger concerns what we lose with co-ed combat. I’m convinced we lose a certain respect for women. Women and children are to be protected. Most of us are angered if we see a man standby and do nothing whenever a woman or child is being harmed. We think the man is a coward for not protecting them. Ephesians 5:25-29 commands me as a husband to love my wife the way Christ loved the church. This role seems to be reversed when husbands are at home, while wives are on the front-lines.

I do not want to live in a world were men and women are treated equally, if by equally we mean men will no longer give deference to the “weaker vessel.” This new decision appears to be another blurring of the gender lines, and in the end, as this trend continues, it only further moves us away from God’s design in creation.

*Some attempt to point to the Deborah narrative in Judges 4, 5 as an exception to this truth. However, the text does not seem to indicate that Deborah actually went into combat and the killing of Sisera by a woman was to shame the man, Barak, who should have killed him.

 

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What is a Child?

55,875,00. Let that number sink into your mind for a moment. 55,875,000. By comparison the number of lives lost in every conflict the United States of America has been involved in, including the Civil War, is roughly 1.4 million. The Holocaust, which is considered the greatest tragedy of this century, claimed the lives of 5.8 million. 55,875,000 is 10 times that number.

55,875,000 is the number of children aborted in the 40 years since Roe vs. Wade was decided. This decision legalized abortion and sanctioned the killing of children in the womb. Sadly, 55,875,000 is not a static number. It grows by around 1.2 million people a year. This fact means that by the time I am 67 there will be over 110,000,000 killings by abortion in this country. Or to put it another way, 100 times more killings by abortion in this country than casualties of war.

I often wonder where is the outrage. If 1.2 million newborns or toddlers were killed each year, as a nation we would be doing all that was possible to change this situation. Last month we as a nation were horrified by the tragic slaying of innocent children in Newtown, CT.  Since that time politicians, national organizations, and others have laid out their particular plans to solve the problem. The motto has been, “if one law can save the life of a child, then we should pass it.”  The same day that 20 children were killed at Newtown, 3,000 were legally killed in clinics across our country. No one even sighed for the death of those 3000.

The reason for this reality is clear. We have believed the wisdom of the world that what is outside the womb is a child, but what is inside the womb is something different. Children outside the womb should be protected from abuse and harm. Inside the womb those same protections do not seem to apply. Outside the womb the child is its own person with rights.  Inside the womb the child is treated as simply apart of the woman. A part that can be removed if she wishes, like she would her tonsils or her appendix.

This is clearly the prevalent wisdom of our day. Recent studies have shown that 7 out of 10 Americans believe that the decision rendered in Roe vs. Wade was correct and that abortion should be legal. They have decided that  the wisdom of the age is true. This is why we are not outraged when we hear abortion numbers. We are not outraged because the majority of us have been convinced that what is in the womb is not a child.

As Christians we submit ourselves not to the wisdom of this age, but to the wisdom of our Lord. How does the Lord view what is in the womb? Allow me to share with you my conclusions from the study of Scripture. In Luke 1 and 2 we have the birth narrative of Jesus. A favorite Scripture for many as we learn about the extraordinary birth of our Savior.*  However, other truths are taught in this section as well. One such truth is the way God views children. Luke 1:41 speaks of John the Baptist’s reaction to Jesus when it states, “the babe leaped in joy.”  The babe is John the Baptist and at this point in time John the Baptist is still in the womb.  Now look over a chapter in Luke 2, particular verses 12 and 16. In these two verses we again have reference to a babe (some versions have child). This particular reference is in regards to Jesus and in this reference he is already born.  Notice that in both Luke 1:41 and Luke 2:12,16 the same word is used to describe a child in the womb and a child outside the womb. When we dig deeper we also recognize the same Greek word is found in each verse, namely brephos. For God there is no distinction between a child in the womb or a child outside the womb. Both of them are children.

This same truth seems to be at the heart of Exodus 21:22-25.  In these verses Moses is discussing case law with regards to the implementation of God’s commandments. In this case we have two men fighting and a pregnant woman is struck resulting in the woman going into labor and the child being born. If the child’s birth results in some injury, then the person who caused the premature birth is recompensed eye for eye, tooth for tooth. What is interesting about this passage is the inclusion of the phrase, life for life. What does this imply? It implies that what was in the womb of the woman was life and therefore if that life (the baby in the womb) is taken, then the life of the offender should be taken as well. For our discussion we see that God views the child in the womb as life. The same way He views a full grown man (Exodus 21:12).

A child, in the wisdom of God, is a child whether inside the womb or outside the womb, and therefore should be protected. In the dark days of Israel we read of a time when the people worshiped the pagan god Molech. Part of the worship of Molech was the sacrificing of babies upon a fiery altar. They were thrown on the altar and burned alive. As you can imagine this angered the true God, Yahweh. He hates the shedding of innocent blood and punished Israel because of it. Today we no longer have altars where we sacrifice our children, instead we have clinics. Today we no longer have a god name Molech, but we do have one named convenience. And in the last 40 years 55,875,000 children, babies have been sacrificed to it.

Lord be merciful upon us!

*Sadly if Mary became pregnant today she might have many who advise her to abort the child because of the hardship it would cause her.

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I vote, But I Trust in God

This is part 5 of the series on voting. Please read the other four parts in order to give context this post.  You can read them here, here, here, and here.

Next week I will vote.  I have in mind the people and measures that I think will best promote good and limit evil in our fallen world.  I, along with thousands of other Americans, will stand in line, tell the people my name, then go to the voting booth and use the touch screen.

On that day, some people will rejoice that their “side” won.  Others will be appalled that their “side” lost.  Anytime you have an election some will be happy and some will be sad.

That night those who are happy will watch newscasts that tell them that the nation has been saved and righteousness has been restored.  Those on the other side will say that apocalypse is upon us.

I will say this:

Some trust in chariots and some trust in horse, but I trust in the name of the Lord –Psalm 20:7.

I hope that the results of the vote end up with good being promoted and evil being limited, but whether they do or not, I know that my God is still in control and that I can trust Him whatever happens.

So, next week if you are convinced your vote can limit the evil in our world and promote good, then by all means vote, but when you come home tonight, pray to God who is truly in control!

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Government is not the Solution

In this series I have hoped (in as much is possible in three blog posts) to talk some about a Christian perspective in voting.  I appreciate the comments of others in helping to accomplish this goal.  In this post I want to address a concern I have.

It seems that some people look to the government as the solution to all of man’s problems.  “Immorality is high in our nation, thus we need to change the laws to make man moral.  We have too much poverty, thus we need to tax and redistribute.”  The argument seems to put the weight of responsibility on the government and elected officers.

Now please read this post in context (i.e. read the earlier posts), I’m not saying that government has no role, but I am saying that Christians should not put their trust in government to accomplish true change in a nation or group of people.  Change, the kind which honors God, only comes when individuals are so overwhelmed by the gospel that they turn their lives over to Him.

This type of change is seen in the conversion of a sinner.  This type of change is the work of the gospel on the heart of the man.  This type of change results in a new man.  It results in a new attitude.  It results in a new life.  It results in people dedicating themselves to righteousness.

Government can limit evil, but it can’t remove the evil from its citizens.  Government can punish crimes, but it cannot justify the criminal.  Government can commend the one who does good, but it cannot change his/her status before God.  Only Christ and the power of the gospel can purge our lives from sin, justify us before God, and give us a new heart and place before God.

So Christians vote tomorrow if you believe that you can limit evil and promote good, but please do not put your trust in the government.  Put your trust in the gospel and make the priority of your life to apply that message to your life and share it with others.

Now, to steal a political phrase, THAT IS CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN!


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