A pastor’s wife told me that she overheard an elder’s wife and a newcomer to the church gossiping about her. The elder’s wife said smugly, “We love our pastor, but his wife controls him. She told him to replace our women’s luncheons with Bible studies.”
Gossip in church hurts. This was a knife that cut right to her heart and she walked away holding back tears. That’s not true. How could she say that? I thought she was my friend? After all the ways I’ve cared for her over the years…
It was a painful reminder that she didn’t feel safe in her church. It’s difficult to be The Pastor’s Wife. Most pastors’ wives live in a fishbowl and are often gossiped about. They feel lonely and don’t know who to trust.
You know the hurt this pastor’s wife felt. We’ve all been hurt by gossip in church, our families, and our places of work.
It’s not gossip to share a concern about another person in order to understand, help, or pray for him or her. Gossip is repeating idle talk or rumors about the personal affairs of another person. The Bible says, “Gossip separates the best of friends” (Proverbs 16:28, NLT). Gossip is not good — it’s disrespectful.
The seduction of gossip is that it fosters an alliance between the two who gossip — by telling secrets about another person they experience an easy closeness because they don’t have to be personally vulnerable. That false bond comes at the expense of the third person who is violated and the larger community that is damaged by the dissension that is stirred up as the grapevine spreads and people start taking sides.
“Lord have mercy” the Psalmist prays (Psalm 41:4). Just as we all have been hurt by gossip so also we have partaken of it’s “tasty morsels” (Proverbs 18:8). Appreciating our own need to be forgiven for the sin of gossip can help us both to stay out of it and to forgive those who sin against us in this way.
Mary was Hurt by Gossip — Yet She Sang with Joy!
Mary, pregnant with Jesus by the Holy Spirit before being married, was branded with the Scarlet A in her town. Probably even some of her friends avoided her, gossiped about her, and looked down upon her as an adulterer. Like Jesus, she lived with the stigma of this lie all of her life (John 9:29).
And yet Mary sang to the Lord, not just once but throughout her life, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1:46-49, ICET).
What enabled Mary to sing with joy to the Lord despite being slandered?
Mary’s Magnificat came from her meditations upon the great prayer of Hannah in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 2:1-10). Praying the Scriptures was a source of life for her. She “treasured and pondered in her heart” all of her life the things that God showed her (Luke 2:19), which surely included her glorious song.
Having Joseph and a few faithful soul friends listen to her with compassion, encourage her, and stand beside her also helped her to maintain her confidence in the Lord and his love for her. She avoided the common mistake of “needing” her acquaintances to be true friends who wouldn’t gossip about her, as that leads to disappointment and insecurity.
It’s easy to imagine that as Mary went about her business — even when people frowned on her or whispered about her — that she sang in her heart the word of the Lord who “looked with favor on his lowly servant.” By faith she placed herself beyond her unfavorable circumstances and in the spiritual reality that “all generations will call me blessed” because “the Almighty has done great things for me.”
Like Mary, we can use the Scriptures and godly friends to help us keep our identity and well-being in the Kingdom of the Heavens, not in a neighborhood of gossip.
Soul Shepherding’s Advent Resources
Devotionals and Prayer Cards for Advent will prepare your heart for a fresh appreciation of the coming of Christ. Our booklet is for private devotions and small groups. The prayer cards work great for facilitating conversation at a holiday gathering.