'Did You Hear?'

December 12th, 2013

Want to make some money by selling a hot photo of a Hollywood A-list couple with their children? While there may be plenty of websites, newspapers, and magazines willing to pay you top dollar for the picture, you may end up with a criminal record and a fine to pay. The California legislature recently passed a law making it “a misdemeanor to attempt to photograph or videotape a child in a harassing manner if the image is being taken because the child’s parent is a celebrity or public official.” Celebrities such as Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner (both of whom are also married to Hollywood stars) testified before lawmakers because they felt as though overly aggressive paparazzi had put their children in danger.

Rumors and gossip are nearly impossible to avoid. We encounter juicy rumors on social media, on popular news and gossip websites, on the covers of magazines for sale in grocery-store lines, and on television talk shows. Technology has only exacerbated the problem, since services such as Twitter and Instagram give us a means to instantly pass on an embarrassing tale or photo to thousands, or even millions, of people.

When we spread rumors to hurt, exclude, make fun of, or embarrass others, we are guilty of bullying. We bully for several reasons: to make others look bad while making ourselves look better; to gain attention or because we are jealous; and for revenge. Regardless of why we start or spread rumors and gossip, doing so can have lasting and damaging effects on individuals and relationships.

There Your Heart Will Be Also

Few of us enjoy being the subject of gossip, but too often we don’t hesitate to spread rumors about others. Such an attitude shows a failure to follow Jesus’ instruction to love our neighbors as ourselves (see Matthew 22:39, quoting Leviticus 19:18). What we say or do not say reveals what is in our hearts and what we treasure most. Starting or spreading a rumor reveals much more about us than the person about whom we are gossiping. Even if we are not the sort of person who starts rumors, we are still participating in hurtful acts when we repeat the latest gossip.

Our goal as Christian disciples is to become more like Christ every day, which means (in part) not giving in to the temptation to gossip. But it also means we must use our words to stand up for the truth. When we say that we are not interested in hearing gossip or rumors, or when we confront people who are spreading false rumors, we reveal that our heart imitates Jesus’ heart. Jesus said, “What fills the heart comes out of the mouth. Good people bring out good things from their good treasure” (Matthew 12:34b-35).

Speaking the Truth in Love

Youth may not know what it is like to be a celebrity who is hounded by paparazzi or to constantly see their faces on gossip websites or supermarket tabloids, but they are all too aware of how rumors hurt people. In a recent online issue of Seventeen magazine, Demi Lovato (child star turned singer-songwriter) had this piece of advice: “Surround yourself with people who don’t engage in [gossip]! . . . Put your energy into following your dreams and doing good.”

The next steps involve taking a stand for truth, and truth can be harder to decipher. But in all situations, our job is to love our neighbors enough to step in and stop rumors. When we stand against lies, we stand for truth and we stand with Jesus.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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