In today’s post, I want to talk about sins that kill relationships (any relationship, not just marriage): gossip, slander, no understanding, no mercy, and bitterness.
Gossip and Slander
Gossip is a big deal in the church today. We love to talk about people, though we often use the guise of “prayer.” I grew up in many different churches but I always heard the same things. “Oh, Mary, let me tell you what Julia did so that we can pray for her.” You don’t really want to pray for the person, you just want to tell people what he or she has done. I’m just as guilty of it! I’ve talked badly about family members, past friends, and current acquaintances. Even speaking badly of people to my husband is gossip. And you know what the truth is? If we gossip about others, God will take His hand off our lives. Many times, whatever bad thing we’re telling others will come back to us. That’s the law of reaping and sowing.
Slander is very similar to gossip. Slander is defined as “a false and malicious spoken statement.” While gossip often tells the truth of what someone has done (even if we shouldn’t talk about it at all), slander tells lies about people. While I’ve heard a lot of gossip in the church, I haven’t heard as much slander, but I know it’s still there. For example, I knew a guy who wanted a romantic relationship with this girl. But when it came out that they were together, and she knew he wasn’t the kind of guy of which her parents would approve, she told everyone he forced himself on her (raped her) against her will. And while there was no proof, it ruined his reputation. This happens more often than we would like to think. That’s why it’s so important to just keep our mouths shut – whether what we know is truth or just hearsay.
Of course, I’m not talking about actual victims staying quiet! If you really are a victim of abuse of any kind, whether by a family member or a friend or a stranger, you need to report it! But if you weren’t really abused, don’t tell people you were. Don’t lie to make people feel sorry for you, or lie to get out of a bad situation you put yourself in. Do not ruin other people’s reputations unless they actually harmed you, because a reputation is something that can never be repaired unless the person moves out of state and changes his or her name.
As Christians, we have to learn to be silent instead of gossiping or slandering others. You don’t need to tell other people about someone else’s problems. If that person wants prayer, they can go to those people themselves. You pray for the person and keep their problems to yourself! And don’t keep rehashing old issues. I know I have a bad habit of talking to people about ways other people hurt me in the past. I bad-mouth those people even though whatever happened was years ago and I truly did forgive them. That means I can’t bring it up anymore except as a testimony if it is actually part of my testimony, for example, the affair I had with a married man. I don’t talk about it to gossip or badmouth him, but rather to show people that even if you’ve committed huge sins, sins that you will regret for the rest of your life, God can still forgive you and deliver you from them.
What does it mean, to have no understanding? Well, understanding is defined as being “sympathetically aware of other people’s feelings; tolerant and forgiving.” That means that it is a sin to be the opposite: to not care about other people’s feelings, to be intolerant and to hold a grudge.
I wouldn’t say that I don’t care about people’s feelings, but there are times that I just don’t think about them. I am too caught up in my own feelings to even consider another person’s feelings, including those of my husband. But it’s a sin to be selfish and not think of others. As believers, we are to get inside the other person’s head and treat them the way we want to be treated ourselves. We have to think about their feelings before we say or do anything.
And what is intolerance? Intolerance is defined as “unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own.” Christians are accused of intolerance all the time by non-Christians. Why? Because we try to force our morality on them. How silly to do that! We aren’t here to judge the world. We can only hold other professing believers, followers of Christ, to the standard of God’s Word – but we can’t hold non-believers to that same standard. I think Christians have a bad reputation because we are protesting things instead of loving people. We protest against homosexuality instead of loving homosexuals to Jesus (I’m not talking about romantically loving them or joining in homosexuality to win them over either). We protest against abortion instead of loving those women to Jesus and showing them there is a better way, a better choice. We protest against fantasy books and movies instead of realizing that they are fictional and very few people actually believe in them. It makes us look foolish and close-minded and it isn’t the way Jesus lived. Jesus loved all the sinners (which is all of us, by the way) and, though He never committed sin Himself, He didn’t condemn them for their sin either. He was kind and loving and that is what brought people to Him.
Finally, we aren’t to hold a grudge. We need to be willing to forgive others if we want God to forgive us (Matt. 6:15). And if we can’t forgive someone on our own, we need to ask God for His help. I promise He will help you to forgive people no matter what they’ve done to you!
Mercy is defined as “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” God’s mercy for us is well-known in the church. Instead of condemning us to Hell, which is what we deserve, He offers the free gift of salvation through Jesus and forgiveness of all our sins. But it isn’t just God that can show mercy. We can show mercy too. When we have compassion toward others and are willing to forgive people for hurting us, we are showing mercy. They may not deserve compassion or forgiveness, but we give it anyway because we are being obedient to our Father God and following His example. When we don’t show mercy to others, we are sinning against God and acting as a god and a judge to others.
Bitterness is defined as “anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly; resentment.” People are going to hurt us and disappoint us – that is part of life. But we have to learn to let that go and forgive people because when we don’t forgive it turns into bitterness. And a bitter Christian can’t be used by God. A bitter Christian makes a terrible witness for Jesus because there are too many bitter non-believers out there. If we are bitter too, how are we any better than them? How are we any different (Matt. 5:43-48)?
If we want to truly live for the Lord and be the people He has called us to be, we can’t walk in gossip, slander, or bitterness, with no mercy or understanding. We have to allow God to change us and work in us to become the people He created us to be and wants us to be so He can use us for His glory.
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