“13 Plus, they get into the habit of being idle. Not only are they idle, but they band together and roam from house to house, gossiping about and meddling into other people’s business; they talk about all sorts of things that should never be spoken of.” 1 Timothy 5:13 The Voice (VOICE)
My father in law was a God fearing, quite, humble and sagacious sage. When I was just starting out in ministry, I like the young pastor in Paul’s writing; Timothy would seek advice about ministry from my father in law, Rev Eldor Bickel. He was reluctant in some ways to give too much information. Looking back, I believe it was because he knew I would face different challenges as the landscape in which I was doing ministry was very different from his context. With that being said, he did give me an ideal approach to managing gossip in the church and my personal life. Not in my wildest dreams could I predict just how regularly this counsel would aid me in ministry?
It is an uncomplicated formula, and maybe it will serve you well as it has me. He referred to it as the Three Gates Test. When you encounter gossip how do you process what the proper response? Well, the test will give you a method to discern God’s will as you prayerful consider your next steps. Once you process the information through these three gates, it will give you guidance to determine whether you share it or bury it.
Gate one: Is the story true? This first one seems obvious, yet how often do we receive communications about someone or something that has happened and the intelligence is inaccurate. Often there is a measure of truth contained in the report, however from there it takes on a life of its own. Morris Mandel has a great quote about the dangers of gossip. “Gossip is the most deadly microbe. It has neither legs nor wings. It is composed entirely of tales, and most of them have stings.” Before you give that story wings take the time investigate its truthfulness.
Gate Two: Is it kind? The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Col 3:12 We are called to be distinct and unique from the rest of the world. Christ has claimed as members of his flock. Our words and actions reflect the call of God in our lives. Is the information that has been shared with us, of such a nature that it is crucial to the well-being of the individual, our team or the body of Christ? Or is it just a malicious rumor that in the end only serves to lift us up? Wrestle with that through prayer to seek direction.
Gate Three: Is it necessary? Your information may pass the first two gates, but the last one is critical. Do people need to know the information you have to share? It may be true, and may even be kind, but how will this information build up the individual or the body of Christ. There are times when the information we have is necessary for people to hear and by keeping it silent we are doing harm. My fear is that usually, it is information we are just dying to share with them for our benefit. Before you go off and share gossip keeps this little poem in mind from Henry Lesser:
May I give all of you some very sound advice?
When you speak of others, say something nice;
Try to say good things, regardless of who is around,
If you have nothing good to say, don’t utter a sound.
You may find that an innocent remark, in the end,
May lose you a close and valued friend.
Life is about relationships, is any gossip, we have stinging our lips worth losing the people we value? May this advice from the heart of a humble man of God be as much of a blessing to you as it has been to me. God bless you, and God bless his church.
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