Three days ago, a mass shooting happened in a town very close to where I live.
Several children were killed. Dozens were injured. In a small Alabama town with a population of 3,000, not far from where my child goes to school. In a town where I have friends living. In a town where I’ve shopped in a cute little yarn shop. In a little town with a veteran-owned creamery that has amazing ice cream. In the little town where some of my favorite Alabama hiking trails are located.
In a town that became the center of a rumor mill…overnight.
Rumors about who the shooter was…about how many shooters were involved. Post the first photos and videos. Who had been injured? How many? Did you know someone, who knew someone who had been murdered? Which hospital was most frequently used? Rumors about why the press conferences weren’t happening…why was information being withheld or overshared?
Isn’t it appalling and intriguing that we live in a society that encourages instant news…and all the better if you are the one with the news first. It’s true of mass shootings, but it applies to everything. Why do we want to be the first to share the news? Did you hear about the new grocery store being built? So-and-so is sleeping with so-and-so. The lady down the road caught her carport on fire. Someone else got arrested. Did you hear…
What would have happened if the disciples had been so quick to start gossiping and spreading the rumors? Imagine, if you will…the rumor-filled conversations that could have happened.
Did you hear what Judas had done? He betrayed the Lord with a kiss! A kiss? Are you sure…that doesn’t seem right. He was paid. How much? Thirty silver coins…that’s it?!?!?!—that doesn’t seem like very much. The Jewish Chief Priests paid him! Surely not. Well, I heard that Pontius Pilate’s wife tried to get him to let Jesus go. Who did you hear that from?
But they didn’t have those conversations with one another or with others. We see in the Gospels that they were more focused on their own journeys and interactions with Jesus. An interesting observation here…if we focus on Jesus and our own business, we aren’t involved with rumors or gossiping.
Scripture gives us plenty of examples:
David says to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David is seeking to harm you’?”-1 Samuel 24:9 (NASB)
“You shall not give a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked person to be a malicious witness.” -Exodus 23:1 (NASB)
“An evildoer listens to wicked lips; A liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.” -Proverbs 27:4 (NASB)
“Do not accept an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” -1 Timothy 5:19 (NASB)
There are plenty more…Proverbs 20:19, Leviticus 19:16, Proverbs 18:7-8, Proverbs 26: 20-21, Proverbs 11:12-13, Psalm 41:6, Romans 1:29
Why is there so much focus on rumor control within the scriptures? God knows that rumors are dangerous. Humans are distracted by them, therefore, Christians should not listen or spread rumors in order to attempt to stay focused on the Lord. We should not entertain rumors or gossip in any capacity. To the best of our ability, we should allow rumors to stop at our ears. We should attempt to not internalize them, and we should certainly not start them or repeat them.
Like the disciples refraining from gossiping about Judas, we should also stop ourselves from being involved in the sharing of information that does more harm than good. Our conversations shouldn’t be guesswork about the neighbor, lies about our co-workers, fabrications about our classmates, or any generalized gossip and rumor.
In the case of a mass shooting, we should remember to keep our conversations God-centered, truth-focused, and sensitive to the families and victims of the tragedy.
While we are praying for each of us to watch our tongues this week, please join us on the Iron Porch in praying for the community of Dadeville, Alabama, and the people impacted by the events of Saturday night.