As people who serve God and are supposed to hold to an absolute moral standard, do we support one another? I ask this question as we approach the Christmas holiday specifically, but would like to broach the topic on general terms as well.
How do we view those in our church and community? Do we view them with the thought that they are children of God, worthy of kindness and concern? Or do we view them with a judgmental eye, waiting to hear of their failure through gossip, never going to them directly to see if there is truth to this gossip? Do we hold an internal dialogue, or perhaps extend that dialogue to others (which can be slander or gossip), without ever going to the innocent brother or sister in Christ to see if they are all right or if the rumor is true?
I will supply an example. There was a young woman who had suffered through a terrible divorce. She had been abused, infidelity had ensued, and she lived in the crisis of being left by her husband.
The pain was too much to bear, as she felt little support from her church. She changed churches to a place where her family could be healed and fit in well. During her season of healing, no one from her previous church checked on her â€” even though she had attended that church and served there for 20 years.
One day, about a year later, she ran into someone from her old church. He said he had heard about the divorce but had heard from her ex-husband that it was her fault. She was shocked and devastated. This woman was left with the feeling that her abuse would never be acknowledged by the church, although it was by law enforcement, and that the pain of being cheated on would never be comforted by those in the Body of Christ.
As I write this story, I wonder, â€œWhy would the church not come alongside and support someone grieving to this degree?â€ Why would she not be contacted and have the gossip denied or confirmed? Why did this woman, who had served faithfully, not receive a Biblical call as mandated in the Bible? Her ex-husband had broken the law, abused and cheated, yet his lying stories were believed.
This story makes me realize how we have the potential to fail one another in the Body of Christ. Gossip, slander and listening to it are sin. The Word of God is clear that we are to get the whole story, and go directly to the person â€” not believe gossip.
Gossip brings emotional pain to people who are already suffering from loss or hurt. Even if there has been sin, we are to go to them to restore them. In that meeting, we may find that they have done nothing wrong, but are victims of gossip. But if we do not extend enough love to go to them, how can we know? â€œIf someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should go to him and restore him gentlyâ€ (Galatians 6:1). â€œIf your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of youâ€ (Matthew 18:15).
If we do not do at least this, we are failing as Christians, and especially as leaders in the church. Had someone gone to this woman, they would have heard about the years of abuse and infidelity she suffered. That she had lived her life praying for her husband. That she felt abandoned and alone when her church did not reach out to her. She carried this grief along with the grief of losing a husband.
As God's children, we need to check on one another and extend care, or we disobey the Scriptures, and we fail in our call to be compassionate to one another. As the holidays approach, I pray we all keep our ears open for those who are hurting, and always take the brave step to confirm gossip before it does damage to another life. Obey the Word of God â€” and be Christ's hand extended.
?The Rev. KIMBERLIE ZAKARIAN's column runs every Saturday. Reach her by e-mail at email@example.com or by mail at Holy House Ministries c/o the Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian, M.S. La Vie Counseling Center, 650 Sierra Madre Villa, Suite 110, Pasadena, CA 91107