Do you often start conversations with Have you heard about...? or I'm not supposed to tell you this, but... ? I'm definitely going to step on my own toes here. I've started plenty of conversations with those phrases.
Our society thrives on gossip. The nightly news is often nothing more than gossip. The grocery store check-outs are lined with gossip magazines. We scour the internet looking for the latest "news" on people.
I've often said that much gossip is shared in churches in the form of prayer requests. I'm guilty. And I'm disgusted. I've sat in many groups where a fellow Christian's sin has been openly discussed, judged and sentenced (whether it's that of a fellow layperson, church leader, or public figure).
But I want to share a little word in the Bible that I discovered several years ago: covers. That one little word implies God's grace. It means to conceal or hide.
Remember the story of Noah? Remember when he became drunk and "uncovered himself in the tent," and Ham (his son) saw him? Ham had a choice to make. He could choose to cover his father's nakedness; or leave him exposed, and gossip about him. He chose the latter. He didn't bother covering his father, and he told his brothers about it. His brothers, Shem and Japheth, were the ones who went inside the tent, with faces turned away, to cover Noah's nakedness. Where Ham had no respect for his father, Shem and Japheth showed great respect and love for Noah.
We are faced with the same choices almost daily. Do we choose to conceal a matter, cover a sin; or do we choose to leave those caught in sin exposed, and worse, gossip about them? There are consequences for the actions we take. When Noah awoke and realized what had happened, he spoke blessings over Shem and Japheth, and a curse over Ham's son, Canaan:
He said, Cursed be Canaan! A slave of slaves, a slave to his brothers! Blessed be God, the God of Shem, but Canaan shall be his slave. God prosper Japheth, living spaciously in the tents of Shem. But Canaan shall be his slave. Genesis 9:25-27
We must choose wisely. Our decisions may leave a legacy about our lives: we will either be a person who is known and remembered for wisdom in offering quiet grace and mercy; or we will be known and remembered for being the gossip who showed no grace or mercy.
He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends. Proverbs 17:9
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter. Proverbs 11:13
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:20
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1Peter 4:8