It’s not for no reason that James says: “No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8, Holy Bible). We have been dealing with that a lot this weekend: A message (gossip, which was untrue but simply sent maliciously) texted from one mobile to another (Digicel mobiles - only introduced a couple of years ago - are very cheap and almost everyone has one, as no one has access in the settlements to landline phones!). This message was shown to another and told to another, and before the end of the Sunday even Kirilee had heard the malicious gossip from another young girl at church. Of course the member who was gossiped about (and incidentally is sick with malaria and thus was not at church) was extremely upset, (she spoke to me yesterday about it, and I must say that she had a very loving, humble and forgiving attitude – more so than I think I would have felt in her situation!) and it turn her friends started badmouthing and making up stories about the person who was believed to have passed on the gossip. This morning was Bible Study morning and I was struggling and praying about how to deal with it all. Should I just leave it alone or should I say something? As some ladies drove with me in the car to Bible Study this morning, it became clear that I couldn’t leave it alone. The stories and gossip and the like seemed to be getting bigger and bigger.
So, I did bring it up this morning, for better or for worse. I just felt like I couldn’t start Bible Study with such a heavy feeling of tension. So, without mentioning names or situations we just talked about how our tongue can be such an evil thing, how Satan wants nothing more than to tear the church apart with our gossip, slander and hatred. We talked about how those that hear gossip (without stopping it) are as much as fault as those who spread it. We talked about how the sin of gossip is world-wide, that churches in Australia and Canada suffer much from this sin too. And we talked about the need for forgiveness, for reconciliation with God and one another and that was it. We prayed and moved on to Bible Study.
However, even as I was talking and even as I was thinking about the whole situation last night, and even as I was considering how gossiping and slandering is such a huge problem in God’s church all over the world, it dawned on me how much harder it is for the people here. Let me explain. You have to understand that many of our church members live together in one area. This does not mean in houses twenty metres apart from one another on a pretty suburban street. No way. These people live in make-shift houses (with bare openings for windows) a few metres away from one another. They all use the same toilets, they all wash in the same river, they all do their laundry in the same river, they all cook outdoors in open air “kitchen” (open fires on the ground). They know when their neighbour (usually their relative) is having an argument with her husband. They know when a husband is beating his wife. They know who is drunk and who is sober. They know who argues with their kids, and what the argument is about. They know everything everyone buys, or eats. They know everything there is to know about one another. No one has privacy. What a breeding ground for gossip to start in. What a way to be enticed to share another’s problems and sins with someone else. What a way to feel under scrutiny all the time.
And when I think about all this then I realise how the Spirit must be working in those members, or during those times when people do chose to be quiet. Then I am all the more grateful when after Bible Study today I received a call from a member who wants to go to the hurt woman and to start the process of reconciliation. Then I am humbled, too, when I think of all the times I have said or listened to hurtful, gossipy things said about someone else, and did nothing. We all need God’s grace and forgiveness so badly. May we all come to know more and more each day how much we need it, and so live Godly lives under His Grace.