PostScripts from Blessing

The official blog of author Lauraine Snelling and the fictional town of Blessing, North Dakota

Summer, 1903 - The Shepherd's Staff

By Pastor John Solberg

When I was sixteen I attended the birthday celebration of a close friend. During the event we played a few parlor games, one of which I have never forgotten.

My friend’s mother introduced it as the game of “Gossip”. She had us sit in a circle, and then handed the person closest to her a message to be whispered into the ear of the person adjacent to him. This message was to be repeated in the same manner to each one until the last person was to speak aloud the message received. The host then read the message written on the paper. There was hardly any similarity. After a good laugh, we determined that we would try again for better results. This time there was no similarity. Again there was much laughter. The point was made, however, that real gossip can come out the same way.

In the Bible we read in James 3:1-12, that Our Lord has some important things to say about the tongue and its use in speech. He says in verse 5 that “the tongue is a little member and boasteth great things. Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” In the passage we are instructed to control our tongues so that both blessing and cursing do not come out of the same mouth. Please read the whole passage.

Here is an example of what I am saying. A pastor friend in a large city church found it necessary to resign after a vicious gossip had destroyed many lives and split the church. A woman member volunteered to help out at the church. She was very talented and at first she was a blessing to the pastor and congregation But after some time went by, the pastor observed that people’s attitudes toward one another, and even him, began to change from Christian love and compassion, to anger, hate and viciousness. Suspicion, insults, accusations of lying, cheating, distortions of fact became the menu of the day. Serious factions developed until many left the congregation. Finally, even the pastor had to resign.

What had happened? The pastor had discovered that the woman volunteer, in the course of her helping ministry, had been learning about the families of the congregation. This gave her the opportunity to put together pieces of conversations she had overheard, or engaged in, to repeat them in a distorted manner to one family and then another. Since she seemed so believable, no one suspected that she was a gossip, setting people against one another. She single handedly destroyed a wonderful church.

In my years as a pastor I have seen the destructive course gossip can take, even to destroying lives and setting people against one another. I have seen developed resentments so strong that terrible physical conflicts have taken place, even unto death.

It surely behooves all of us to watch that we don’t get caught up in gossip, no matter how tempting it might seem to be.

Faithfully yours,
Pastor John Solberg, Blessing Lutheran Church