Have you ever found yourself to be the topic of hot gossip at church? You don’t have to raise your hand or anything. I think it’s safe to assume we’ve all been there a time or two, myself included.
I remember transitioning from being a youth student to a young adult college student and hearing all the different talk about the changes (both good and bad) that I was making in my life along the way. Back then I played it off like it was nothing. Some days I even pretended to be flattered by people’s sudden interest in my life. But the truth is I was never really flattered, and their words never really slipped of my shoulder. The truth is, it hurt.
When Gossipers In the Church Talk About You
I wanted to call them out on it. I can’t even tell you the number of times I have those conversations in my head; the witty, strategic, and effective words I planned to use to bring the perfect amount of conviction and just enough shame to ensure that the people talking would never open their mouths and speak ill or in vain about vainly about again. But that’s not how it works.
And as much as I want to let the hurt in me do the talking, start swinging, and fire back every kind of insult I could possibly come up with… That’s not how the God in me works either. And by choosing to live a life that honors Him I forfeit my “right” to combat this attack (because that’s what it is, a spiritual attack) in my own strength or on my own terms. Instead, here are 4 God-honoring ways actions that helped me gracefully respond to the gossip spread about me and the people spreading it.
How to Gracefully Respond to Gossip Within the Church
1. Pray for those who are speaking against you.
I think Jesus said it best in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
People may know it’s wrong, but I truly believe people don’t understand the damage their words cause until the paint splatters (that’s a Culture of Honor reference for there for anyone who didn’t catch it) and all of and hell (literally) breaks loose. Suddenly our words have begun to devour and eat at the lives of people around us and we have no clue. We have no clue how much ground we just gave the enemy or how much pain we just caused. We just don’t know, because we don’t understand the value of our words. We don’t look at our words with the same perspective heaven does.
It’s always in our best interest to forgive; but sometimes I think we need to act in the best interest of others and genuinely say, “Lord, they don’t understand the strength of what they are speaking. Forgive them.” Intercede on their behalf.
2. Guard your heart.
Offense causes division like nobodies business. So it’s important that we nip it before it buds and blossoms. Be vigilant in the guarding of your heart. Always forgive. Do not let any bitterness take root in you. I’ll confess, it takes a whole lot of Jesus for me to keep my heart in check sometimes. There are days I find myself praying against the same thoughts three or four times a day, but that is a step we can’t afford to skip over.
If forgiveness is something you’re struggling to be good at giving, check out the encouraging words in this article shared by Leah Grey of Grey Ministries.
READ “Experts Weigh In With Practical Advice On Forgiveness” By Leah Grey
3. Start blessing.
” But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven..” – Matthew 5:44-45
Have you ever stopped to imagine what the warfare scene in heaven is like when conflict arises in the church? I imagine it’s pretty intense. Let me remind you of this; just as heaven and it’s angels are on assignment, so are hell and its demons. Have you ever stopped to think that the hurt that grips you is a direct result of the manipulative hand of Satan himself? More often than not I guarantee you that’s the case.
The best way to combat what the enemy is working is to start blessing what God is doing. Bless the people who speak against you, bless what God is working in their lives. Stand in agreement with the Kingdom of Heaven.
We waste so much time dwelling on our earthly circumstances that we forget there are swords blazing and sparks flying in the heavens right now. There is a battle for souls going on and we are too stuck in “us” to notice. We need to start noticing and we need to pick a side. Are you with God or against Him? Let your actions speak accordingly. Start blessing what God is working.
4. Don’t let division take root.
Love beyond the circumstances. And remember who loved you first. I’ve known people who have stopped going to church all together over conflicts like this. In fact a few years ago I was one of them. But then my mom told me this,
“Don’t punish a perfect God for the action of imperfect people.”
Remember that you go to church to love on God and draw near Him in partnership with other believers. Don’t let the actions of a few imperfect people impose on your relationship with God. Keep going to church, keep loving, keep serving, and keep drawing near to Him.
The Confrontation: Should There Even Be One?
By now you are probably asking yourself, “But what about the confrontation?” Truth be told, there may not even need to be one. God has a way a fighting our battles with such grace that often times if we let Him, He’ll handle it all. We won’t even have to lift a finger.
Other times God may give you the words to speak and confrontation may be a task He would like you to take on.
But I’m going to suggest that before you take matters into your own hands, you ask God what He in His wisdom would suggest you do. In instances like this confrontation isn’t about proving you were right and that someone else was wrong. It’s about protecting the relationship between those in conflict and the unity of the body of Christ. In this arena, confrontation is not something to walk into with pride and self-serving ambition.
So before you go walking into confrontation do yourself a favor and wait on God. Follow His lead. Leave every selfish motive behind and put the heart and relationship of the person you are confronting in the forefront of your mind.
Love boldly, no matter the outcome of the conversation. In the end, it will all be worth it.
What advice would you give to someone who finds themselves in a situation like this?