In response to questions about gossip:

Gossip is any statement however made that would tend to depreciate the reputation of the person being the subject of the statement. The fact that the statement is true is not a defense to gossip. The fact that the statement is made with a request for prayer for the person is not a defense. The fact that the statement is not made with malice is not a defense. The fact that the person making the statement is asking for pastoral advice as to how to handle a problem with the person is not a defense. Paul puts gossip  in the same category as sexual perversion, adultery and murder. Gossip and slander are, in effect, the murder of a person’s reputation. The reason the Bible takes such a hard line against this sin is that it, more than any other sin in the body, destroys relationships. It undermines unity and leaves the church divided,  making all of us weak targets for the Enemy.

A funny story about someone is not gossip if the name is not used and no one could determine who is being talked about by deduction from the context. Ditto for a prayer request or for advice about how to handle a problem with another person.

The biblical solution as to how to handle a disagreement or offense with another person in the body of Christ is set out in Mathew 18. We have only one option – to go to the person alone and confront them and try to work it out. If they blow us off, we take a mature person with us for a second try. If that doesn’t work we take the issue to the elders. If the elders reach the conclusion that the person was both wrong [as alleged] and non-repentant, the elders will tell the person to leave the fellowship until they repent. The goal is not punishment but rather bringing the person to knowledge of the severity of their sin so that they may repent on this side of judgement day [and hopefully be restored to fellowship].

The best way to handle being the recipient of gossip is to tell the person that they were wrong to tell it to you and that they need to follow Math. 18 and go to the person alone. If they are fearful you can offer to go with them a second time if they are rejected on their first try. If they refuse to do this then they are now in the wrong just as much as the person they have gossiped about.

Some time ago we had a problem with gossip in our church. I taught on the severity of the sin and came up with a policy which was;  if you receive gossip  tell the gossiping person to go to the alleged offender to work it out according to Math.18. Give them 10 days to do so. Follow up with a call to see if they did it. If they say no, tell them that if they have not done so in another 7 days you will be going to the person to tell them who gossiped about them and what they said. The church took this seriously and applied this policy. Within a few months our gossip problem was gone. The whole atmosphere of the church changed. Everyone was looking out for everyone else’s reputation – it made for a very loving community.

As to statements between husband and wife, I think by virtue of the one-flesh principle these discussions are not gossip but, of course the discussion should never go beyond the marriage.

Hope this helps.

Mark