Summary: May the Lord help us to resist and put away gossip and slander and other sins of the tongue in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Please turn in your Bibles to Colossians chapter 3:8. Last week we explored verses 1-11 which address the issue of putting to death or putting away sin from our lives. We do this not in an attempt to make ourselves right with God, for God’s acceptance comes only through faith. We do it because it’s the appropriate thing to do, indeed it is the thing we want to do, if we have been raised with Christ to new life. And the Lord himself is working in us to do that.
We’re going to take this morning to focus on one of the sins in Paul’s list that he commands us to put away, indeed that God commands us to put away, and that is slander. It is mentioned in verse 8. And we will deal with its close cousin gossip as well because they often go hand in hand. I’ll explain why we’re going to focus on this topic in a moment.
First let me read verses 5-10 for context and then pray.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Let me begin with a story to highlight why I believe this topic of gossip and slander is worth an entire sermon. Another minister tells of an event that occurred several years ago, the church that his family was part of went through a church split. In a short period of time, roughly one third of the congregation left. And he was in a leadership position but not a pastor yet at that time.
The issue that sparked the split was a difference in opinion about church government—who leads the church and how—and over a doctrinal position they were teaching related to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These things came up because they had recently received a large influx of new members and there was a need to clarify what they believed about certain things since it wasn’t in their statement of faith at the time. If you were an outside observer at the time, and you were looking for a cause of the church split, the easy target would have been the disagreement on these issues—the different ways of thinking that people had about church government and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
But that was not the cause. The main factor that fueled the split was gossip and slander. It was not the disagreement itself; it was what people did with their disagreement.
Proverbs 18:19 says A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle. Gossip and slander are two primary ways in which brothers and sisters are offended and become unyielding and quarrelsome.
The minister goes on to say, “During that time God convicted me of slander as I responded to being slandered by unloading my frustration with difficult individuals on my wife and on my fellow leaders. And I needed to confess that and seek forgiveness. By God’s grace, the church did recover and grow in unity and is today a thriving witness to the gospel of grace.
Now, it is entirely possible, and I believe it happens every day, that a church can experience no division even when they disagree on different doctrinal issues. But no church can ultimately avoid division where there are gossip and slander, even when it agrees deeply on doctrinal issues across the board.
I don’t believe that gossip and slander are a present concern here at Warrior Gospel Disciples. In fact, I’m not sure that I’ve heard any gossip or slander since I’ve been here over the last 5 months. You are to be commended for your practice of building up and not tearing down. You are eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit as commanded in Ephesians 4:3 and we are experiencing that unity.
So we’re not having this message as a form of correction. If I happen to look at you while making a point, you should know that I’m not trying to tell you something! However, I do believe that because this is God’s word and his Spirit does work to bring illumination and conviction that he may tell you something. But it wasn’t planned by me!
What I pray will be accomplished in this message is that we will be freshly aware of what gossip and slander are, freshly motivated to put them away as Paul tells us to do in Colossians, and freshly aware of the gospel of Jesus Christ which is the remedy for gossip and slander. This message is preventative, so that we will maintain the unity we have, and even grow in it.