Years ago Dennis Jackson shared some wisdom regarding how to handle an evil report. An evil report is when someone comes to us and shares negative or accusing information about another person. It can be easy to just listen, empathize and even desire to hear such information. However, followers of Jesus are called to live in peace with everyone and gossip/slander is considered sin. So, how should we deal with reports that appear to be negative toward another person?
Here is the wisdom I received and so I’m passing it on to you.
Six questions to ask the person BEFORE listening to an evil report:
1. “What is your reason for telling me?” Widening the circle of gossip only compounds the problem. If it doesn’t involve you then you don’t need to be in the mix.
2. “Where did you get your information?” Refusal to identify the source of information is a sure signal of a evil report.
3. “Have you gone to those directly involved?” Spirituality is not measured by how well we expose an offender, but by how we effectively restore an offender. (Galatians 6:1) (Matthew 18:15)
4. “Have you personally checked out all the facts?” Even “facts” become distorted when not balanced with other facts or when given with negative motives.
5. “Can I quote you if I check this out?” Those who give evil reports often claim that they are ‘misquoted.’ This is because their words and overriding impressions are reported.
6. “What is the sin issue in this situation?” Is this a sin issue (has someone been wronged), or an expectation, personality or style issue (someone has a different opinion and preference)?
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Some helpful passages:
“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other–each with the attitude of Christ Jesus toward the other. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
“Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace.”
Living in community with others (who are not perfect) leads to disagreements, misunderstandings and hurt feelings. One way to encourage healing and resolution is to not participate in passing along negative or divisive comments. This is very difficult because it is always juicy and sometimes the information will reinforce our own struggles with a person.
What if I chose to pray instead of complain? What if I chose to seek understanding instead of seeking my way? What if I put myself in the shoes of the person being spoken of? What if the main goal of my life (and how I handled conflicts and personal issues) was to glorify and honor God? These questions are easier said than done. We need the Holy Spirit and supportive brothers and sisters to live in oneness together.