The most dangerous obstacle to any mission is gossip.
It doesn’t matter if that mission is part of a church, a small group, or an individual.
The most deadly words are, “You know….I’ve heard about you.”
Because most often it just isn’t true.
One pastor told me that he had heard that sentence, and it finished with, “You don’t use the Bible to preach anymore.”
Absolutely not, but rumors, hearsay, and gossip are a lot easier to spread and require a lot less work and information than sitting, listening, and finding out the truth.
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. Acts 6:8-15
Stephen, as we shall see shortly, is about to become the first martyr for the faith.
It all starts with gossip.
Truth be told, that’s how almost all bad information starts. He was full of the Holy Spirit, he performed miracles, he called people to repentance, and he evangelized wherever he went.
Soon, the religious leaders noticed and they didn’t like it. They fabricated a story to get him in trouble. They stirred up the crowds, they made up stories, they said whatever they had to so that he would get in trouble.
What we had seen with Jesus on trial unfolds again with Stephen. Jesus is calling his disciples to go where where he has been. Stephen becomes the first to famously pick up his cross and follow Jesus.
The church can learn in two ways from this passage. First, it can see the deadly result and end of untended gossip. When gossip runs in the church, the mission of everyone falters and Christ is grieved. Integrity, health, and an attitude of loving confrontation are vital to church health and sustainability.
Secondly, it can act as a narrative on how to fight it. Stephen didn’t respond with violence, he didn’t act out, he didn’t become angry or bitter; instead, he continued to act with grace and dignity and used it as an opportunity to tell more people about Christ. Many people choose to fight gossip with the same negative attitude as those that are gossiping. It quickly turns into the blame game and trying to determine who is worse.
An attitude of, “But I’m not as bad as they are” is unChristlike and has no place in the church.
Make we take time to study the life and empowering Spirit that filled Stephen and respond with the same grace and dignity that he did.