One of the gravest sins Jesus condemned is the one most people equate with righteousness! Many seem to feel the spreading and repeating of rumor — especially if they feel there is "some element of truth" in it — JUSTIFIES, whitewashes, makes to appear all the more righteous, the talebearer. Think! Which of the specific, plain COMMANDS of Jesus Christ of Nazareth do you, knowingly, deliberately, and with malice aforethought, intend to BREAK?
WELL... where there's smoke, there's fire... " is not only technically untrue (how many times have I labored over a smoky fireplace in exasperation, trying to coax slowly smoldering wood into flame?), but it is philosophically false. But the age-old adages get overused when it comes to people justifying the most vicious and most-oft condemned of "casual sins," that of gossip, rumormongering, and talebearing! "Well, I may not have all the facts, but..." is for openers. Then, the bewildered "little one" in Christ is ushered into the labyrinths of the inner sanctum of doubt, disillusionment and confusion. Gossip — the mindless, endless repetition (with gradual exaggeration thrown in) of hearsay — is a virtual hobby of many thousands of professing Christians. What about you? Have you heard any GOSSIP lately? And if you sinned by listening to it, did you sin even more and more by repeating it?
God HATES Gossip!
Too many people take lightly the enormity of SIN! As human beings, we like to categorize sin. We tend to place various physical acts in a neat order of importance, or infamy, depending upon our own personal backgrounds, teaching and emotions. Thus a careless slip which results in breaking God's Sabbath day (a cardinal SIN, the direct breaking of one of the TEN COMMANDMENTS, punishable by DEATH if not repented of) is passed over lightly, while the Sabbath breaker may hold in absolute abhorrence a person who has committed armed robbery, sex perversion, bestiality or murder! Tens of thousands of professing "Christians" are sinning — almost with a greedy, purposeful determination — as they endlessly like to listen to, and then pass on, all the "latest" about what's "going on" here, or there. These same thousands would not sit at the same dinner table with a person they knew to be a murderer, or pervert, or drug addict. But, oh, the stories they can tell you about people allegedly guilty of all sorts of crimes and sins. The sidelong glance, the whispered word, the lofty look, and the subtle hints in oblique conversation — all are an art, a part of the tools of the talebearer, who, without realizing it, is LOSING OUT ON SALVATION by literally living in continual sin, simply because, while repeating the old adage "Where there's smoke, there's fire," has forgotten the far sounder old saying, "Two wrongs don't make a right." God's Word is literally filled with His thundering commands about gossip, talebearing, false witnessing, and sinning with the mouth! God says, "These six things doth the Eternal hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren"! (Prov. 6:16-19.) God HATES a proud, lofty look (Isa. 2:11), a lying tongue, those who "dream up" various exaggerations and tales, and anyone who would divide brethren. But does one scripture contradict another scripture? Can I use these scriptures to allege that, NO MATTER WHAT another person does, you have NO RECOURSE to jolt him into an awareness of his sin; or to rebuke or chasten, or lovingly exhort a brother? Nonsense! One scripture does NOT cancel out another. Remember, these words you read are the vital, dynamic, living Word of your Creator God, who gives you every breath of air you breathe! They are words before which (along with all other Scripture) we are to TREMBLE (Isa. 66:2). They are the words which will JUDGE us! But "innocent" gossip is a common sin which is engaged in almost automatically, almost "casually" by literally thousands, every day. To hear and repeat a story about someone else, about real or imagined "goings on" here or there is as natural as any instinct common to man. But no matter HOW NATURAL (and remember, natural rhymes with carnal) these seemingly minor sins may be to some, they are soundly condemned over and over again in God's Word; and this perhaps most common of all sins was very sternly condemned directly by Jesus Christ, your Saviour!
It Is LUST to Gossip
Have you ever tried to "reveal part of a secret"? People love, or perhaps it is better said, lust after, "secrets" and "mysteries." That's precisely why the great false church of Satan is titled "mystery of mysteries," and why, in so many false religions, the mystic, unseen, hidden, secretive and dark meanings, symbols; similes and analogies occupy so prominent a place. Inquisitiveness — a desire to "find out" things — is a powerful part of human nature. From the time we were babies, we tasted, smelled, felt and looked at everything we could grasp — no matter how dirty or foul or evil smelling or looking it might have been. The natural curiosity of a child has killed thousands of children who have toppled from upper-story windows, swallowed poison, played with fire, shot each other with guns, or died in hundreds of other ways. Others, it has permanently injured and disfigured. The desire to taste some strange concoction, or to "try" something because of peer pressure is found to be the strongest single reason given for the smoking habits of most people, and, to a large extent, the drug abuse of our peoples! It's a curiosity we never seem to mature out of. Try telling your husband, or wife, just a "Part" of something you "know." (But be careful it's not gossip, or you'll be SINNING!) Perhaps you have a "surprise" for your mate? Maybe a thoughtful husband has decided to purchase a lovely piece of jewelry or a decorative piece for the home, and "surprise" his wife. But what if he says, "I've got something for you, dear; and it's a surprise"? WHEN does the wife want to KNOW about it? Does she say: "Oh, thank you,... honey — that's great — and I know you'll tell me what it is when you get around to it"? Hardly. The husband has unleashed a tremendous desire in the wife by any such statement, to which she would almost automatically respond: "Oh, GOOD — what is it? When can I see it? What did you pay for it?" And, probably a whole series of other questions. At this point, if the husband insists on "keeping the secret" a little longer, he may upset his wife to the point he would have been better off never thinking of a gift in the first place, rather than keeping her in suspense about a "partial" secret! When did you last overhear a part of a conversation where your; name was being mentioned? When did you last notice "a group of people talking (maybe after, or before services!), and notice one or two of them happen to glance your way while they were engaged in earnest conversation? Did you almost INSTANTLY feel overcome with a POWERFUL desire to KNOW WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT? What about overhearing only a part of a telephone conversation? Do you wives ever rush to the phone to put your ear up there, and try to hear the other part, too? Ever pick up the extension, maybe even unbeknownst to your mate, and eavesdrop? ("Eavesdropping" comes from the practice of those who actually scaled roofs and then hung partially over the eaves to hear what was going on inside upper-story rooms — which appears to be a very well advanced case of curiosity, to say the least.) Of course you have — if not in these particular ways, then in other ways; we all have — it's a part of our nature.
Desire for News
But repeating EVIL and FILTH and VOMIT, in the form of attacks upon another's character — gossip about either real or imagined past misdeeds — THIS is the lowest form of talebeaing. Frankly, MOST of the "talebearing" among God's own people has been an understandable desire for news; for news of the Work, and news from the ministry at Headquarters, and from overseas! How many dozens and hundreds of perfectly "innocent" telephone calls have cost how many thousands of dollars to repeat "news" after a Friday night Headquarters Bible study, I don't know. But I do know how many employees have been hurt, when false rumors about their being "fired" or "demoted" or similar dire consequences were rumored, only to be proved untrue, later. I do know how many false tales about anything from ordinations to imagined campaigns in areas not even planned as yet have been spread about, causing everything from apprehension, to excitement, to dashed hopes, to despair — when there was NOT ONE WORD OF TRUTH in any of it! Frankly, I had wanted for a long time to see The Portfolio go to the Church brethren (The Portfolio is the official College newspaper) because I recognized this very great desire on the part of brethren to KNOW what is happening in the Work — not from any but the finest of motives; of wanting to support, to be encouraged, to help, to pray for specific needs of the Work. But The Portfolio would only be College oriented! Policy dictated that only ministers, graduates and perhaps the families of students would receive The Portfolio. In any event, it was not aimed at Church news, but only at the individual College news. Out of my desire to LET THE CHURCH KNOW what was happening came the idea for the Church newspaper. Earlier I had actually hoped we could publish a newspaper to be freely distributed even among the public in the Big Sandy area, both to dispel false assumptions about the Church and the College and to be a really NEWS worthy publication, which they simply do not have in that area. Since the College possessed the major wire services and could actually fulfill the commitments of any local newspaper, my thinking, and that of others in Big Sandy, ran in that direction. But, finally, the idea jelled in my mind. Why not a full-sized CHURCH NEWSPAPER? I called Mr. John Robinson, and others. I discussed my ideas with several. We had a couple of meetings. I asked for a layout and sample mastheads, copy, and design. I, personally, oversaw the entire birth, creation and first delivery of the paper, gaining my father's full support and approval during a meeting we had in Big Sandy. Now, the paper fulfills a VITAL NEED in this Work — and the brethren are MORE FULLY INFORMED THAN EVER BEFORE! Also, though this more expanded Good News was by no means my own idea, I instantly concurred with Mr. Wayne Cole, Mr. David Jon Hill and others, who brought the idea to my attention. This, too, received my father's wholehearted endorsement. At least, I thought, the brethren are really going to be INVOLVED, now, in the entire spectrum of the Work.. What with an expanded Ministerial Bulletin, I have tried, sometimes at great personal expense in terms of mental fatigue and pressure, to write a lengthy, fully detailed, complete letter BOTH for The Worldwide News (the Church newspaper) and for the Bulletin (both published every two weeks), keeping the MINISTRY totally informed. But, it seems, even with all these attempts at dispelling rumor, and at really FEEDING all of God's people (and many who are NOT yet fully baptized members!) with the whole facts, rumor continues to persist. But then, that's human nature, we. probably say. And that's precisely it! Human nature, our CARNAL nature, the way we "are" is WHAT WE MUST DEEPLY REPENT of!
The "Right to Know"
Since the Eisenhower admission of a lie during the Gary Powers U-2 spy plane incident, and from the time of wild speculation concerning the Kennedy assassination, the United States' general public has become increasingly skeptical of its leadership. During the Johnson administration, as we became ever more deeply enmeshed in Vietnam, and as American campuses erupted in riotous demonstrations over the evils of the "establishment," while American cities rocked with the violence of civil rights strife, and massive arson and bombings, public doubt over governmental truthfulness was coined into a new phrase called "The Credibility Gap." It was admitted, finally, that the Government had, in fact, kept the American people in ignorance of various increases in manpower, and the materiel of war. Involvement in Cambodia and Laos, together with "unauthorized" bombings which had been deliberately kept secret from the public, leaked out in sensational news stories — some from "stolen" Pentagon papers, and the like. After Richard. Nixon's reelection, the issue of "Watergate" burst like a nightmarish bombshell on the public consciousness. While George McGovern had tried to fan the flames of outrage over Watergate during his campaign, the apathetic public seemed unable to care Jess. Finally, though, painstaking investigation began revealing the truth. Break-ins, burglary, payoffs, collusion, and every assorted chicanery, together with names, dates; and places, came flowing out of the press, and into the Senate Investigative Committees, and later the hands of the Special Watergate Prosecutor, Archibald Cox. An agonizing period of silence from the White House was finally halted when Mr. Nixon in swift action fired or accepted resignations of one key staff member after another. Scandal! The stock market reacted; people were stunned — leadership, guilty of LYING, or of COVER-UP? Still, the battle rages on. Today, the American people are clearly divided on the issue of Watergate. Public opinion polls strongly indicate that even though there may appear to be plenty of circumstantial evidence (no actual evidence has been brought to light), millions of Americans have already judged Mr. Nixon, and found him guilty. Though they simply DO NOT KNOW the facts, and have had a combination of objective reporting, favorable reporting, and highly biased and opinionated reporting, they have judged the President — convicted the President — and are now demanding his resignation, or impeachment procedures! Such is the WAY of human governments. In man's government it is the PEOPLE to whom the leaders are ultimately responsible, and to whom they must finally answer. But in GOD'S government, it is GOD to whom the leaders are ultimately responsible, and to whom they must finally answer. Under the democratic system of freedom of assembly and of speech, the general public feels it has a "right to know" what its leaders do. And well it might, since, in a democracy, it is ONLY through the vast system of checks and balances, and especially the principle of majority rule, that a free society can be given any possible guarantee of continued freedom and protection from a despot. But such a "right to know" must be tempered with ANOTHER great "democratic" principle — that which says that a man is "presumed innocent until proven guilty." But no! Millions will not have it that way. Rumor, hearsay, opinion, and the emotional spates of this or that group or interest sway public opinion. Belittling political cartoons, blistering editorials (Time magazine spoke out in an editorial for the first time in 50 years, demanding the President's resignation), and personal letters to editors revealed this rising tide of demands for resignation BEFORE all the facts were known. Apparently, there was no one to remind the public of the words of God: "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him" (Prov. 18:13).
How God Rules His People
But what of God's Church? What of GOD ALMIGHTY and the way He rules and governs His own people? Does each individual have a "right' to know"? What about SIN? What about EVIL? What about filthy, vomitstenched, rotten heinous crimes? Shouldn't a people truly be INFORMED? Then why does, God insist some "secrets" should NOT be, repeated, and make it a cardinal SIN' to repeat them? "He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips [openeth wide his lips, margin)" (Prov. 20:19). Why does one proverb after another soundly CONDEMN the telling • of evil? "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but LOVE COVERETH all sins" (Prov. 10:12). Does love, then, REVEAL the evils around us? Or does it COVER? What does GOD want to do where YOUR personal sins are concerned? Does He wish to discover each little detail in terrible clarity, and then spread each detail into the minds of thousands of other people — people you have never met, and do not know? No, of course not! He said through David, a man after God's own heart: "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.... The Eternal is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so GREAT is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from, the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:3, 8-12); And through Paul: "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins arid their iniquities will I remember no more"! (Heb. 8:12.) With the Creator, REPENTANCE is what counts! Repent of your sins, and God will utterly BLOT THEM OUT. Not only does God blot them out of His own mind, but He commands human beings to do the same! Jesus, going to great lengths to explain by a parable what He meant, answered Peter's question: "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven time?" (Matt. 18:21.) Finally, Jesus answered, "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" (verse 35). Forgive and forget DO go together. God plainly says He FORGETS sins and iniquities when He forgives. He removes them from us as far as east is from west, which means, literally, "infinity." What a blessing and a great comfort to KNOW we can have GOD'S FORGIVENESS, which, unlike the petty "pardons" and excuses of man, is PERMANENT! Man's "forgiveness" is usually NOT permanent. Politicians vie for political office and prestige based "on the record." Apparently, the immaturity of millions is such that, when informed that the man they have placed in office by a majority vote seems somewhat less than perfect — could even be guilty of such a terrible thing as telling a lie, or snooping on political opponents — they are scandalized, outraged! It's as if the public actually expects its leaders to be PERFECT! But does the general public REALLY go to such an extreme? Certainly not! Millions of, Americans are privately convinced it takes a man of unusual "expediency," if not to say slightly "crooked trends" (and that's much more polite language than used by millions of them, and certainly more cordial than that used in the press), in order to even BE a successful politician. Then why the "outrage" when they believe they have discovered some inconsistency? Question: Is it possible for even a President to be genuinely sorry for something, and to be forgiven? Answer (from millions in the general public who scream daily for his resignation): "No!"
But does, then, each individual really have the "right to know" all the petty personal details of government? Absolutely not! An elected official of the United States in such high office simply MUST retain what is called "executive privilege." Yet, there are those who are outraged at even this! They seem to feel that unless they can be privy to Mr. Nixon's own' most intimate conversations with aides — with leaders of other countries and with his own family — they are NOT BEING TOLD THE TRUTH! Ridiculous! A president of a country simply MUST be able, for the protection of the country, and for national security regarding foreign policy, to have many of his private conversations remain completely PRIVATE! But like spoiled children, in temper tantrums of outrage, there are those who ridicule "executive privilege" as if it were only another recent ploy to aid the President in some alleged (but not proven) "cover-up." In the next issue I will address further the question of executive privilege. Does it apply to God and to the leadership of His Church? Did Jesus tell the general public everything He told His own disciples in private? These and other related questions will be dealt with in the next issue of The Good News magazine.