What could be more lovely than sitting around a camp fire at night? The cool breeze, the warmth and glow of the fire and friends surrounding you. Everyone has their cup of hot chocolate, all is quiet, until a spark. What kind of spark? The fire crackles and a spark shoots up falling to the ground to singe dry grass. Before you know it the fire is a blaze. Everyone is moving their chairs and backing away as fast as they can. They don't want to get singed and they certainly don't want to get burned. How easy a forest fire can begin with just one spark.
"A lying tongue... a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren"
Lets take this a bit further. Lets say this group is sitting around the camp fire and all is quiet until one speaks up. One voice is heard. That voice speaks about another. Someone who is not there to defend themselves and fan the flames that are about to erupt. What happens? Does everyone stand as fast as they can, picking up their chairs, backing away as fast as they can? No, they sit. They sit in wonder and the sparks that are about to fly. The spark catches on one and then spreads to another. Now, everyone is jumping in, adding to the flames. No one is moving away, but gathering in closer. How can you not get burned by such actions?
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor"
All it takes is one ember to take flight and the fire is now spreading rapidly. But to stop that fire, all it takes is one person to step out and contain it. One person to take a stand and say, "Hey, wait a minute. Should we be discussing this?" But too often, this is not what we do. We listen and then add to the fire. It's like hot air on a flame that is already blazing. Everyone leaves that camp fire with soot on them. They have a residue that leaves a smell and a stain. How can you not get your hands dirty from adding to the flame?
"Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge."
Gossip is that one thing that makes us sick. If we are honest we have all been part of gossip. We only notice the flames when we are the one being spoken about. But when we are sitting around the camp fire and everyone is talking, we join in, not giving one thought to that person being spoken about. They are not even there to defend themselves. And what if they were there? Would the conversation take place? No, everyone would smile and act friendly, until another gathering when they were not standing side by side.
"For their heart devises violence, and their lips talk of trouble making" Proverbs 24:2
Gossip should make us sick. Why can't we control our tongue? Why do we have to be busybodies and know every tidbit of information? We speak of others as if we know their life, when in fact, we have all the information we are spreading all wrong. In fact, there is little truth in all we are saying. I think we should all find ourselves being put to shame.
"And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not."
1 Timothy 5:13
We speak of others as if we are perfect. As if our sins are minor in comparison. We speak as if we are holier than thou. When in fact, if we paid more attention to our own affairs we wouldn't be so quick to judge another. Where does our Christianity come in around the camp fire? Our light should be burning for the Lord, not for the latest gossip about our neighbor or our church member.
"Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins."
1 Peter 4:8
"This little light of mine...I'm gonna let it shine...This little light of mine....I'm gonna let it shine." Do we really understand this sweet song we teach to our children? What adults do in moderation, children will do in excess. We are the examples to those around us and when we cannot stand up and say, "Enough", we are causing others to stumble.
"So lets stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall."
Our speech should be inviting. It should be warm. Love should flow from our lips. We should be lifting others up, not bringing them down. What if we turned that gossip into a prayer? Might we begin with praying for our own sorry selves. If we know a brother or sister has taken a turn off the path, might we invite them to the camp fire. Might we use that camp fire as an invitation to speak about the Lord and how He blesses us. Might we be transparent and speak of our own struggles to make others feel more open and loved. We too often feel like we are the only one in a situation and what is really sad is the fact that as Christians we can be the very people who make others feel this way.
"If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure." 1 Corinthians 10:12-13
We are not here to point out the sins of others. If anything, lets point out our own so others know we struggle daily on our walk. So, what happens after the camp fire? We get in the car and say, "Can you believe Angie said that about Carol?" Oh, how pious of us. We sat right there and we either added to the flames or said nothing at all to stop them.
"A good-for-nothing man is digging up what is bad, and upon his lips there is, as it were, a scorching fire. A man of intrigues keeps sending forth contention, and a slanderer is separating those familiar with one another." Proverbs 16:27-28
But then, once we are home, we put on our jammies and crawl under the comfort of our warm blanket. You know, since that fire didn't warm us enough. In fact, sitting around that fire was downright cold. You could even say it brought chills. In the quiet of the night we now hear the Lord speaking straight to our heart. What does He say? Can we even hear Him? I am sure sitting around that fire everyone felt His Spirit. But no one spoke up. We sat in silence as He called us to stop the flames.
"Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops. A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood. Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one's heart. Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they're deceiving you. They pretend to be kind, but don't believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils. While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed in public."
Friends, there is no one that doesn't get burned from gossip. It touches the person being spoken of and it too touches us, the very person doing the talking. In our Christian circles we like to say, "Prayer request." Isn't that a hypocritical joke. Gossip singes our reputation. It chars our character. It takes away from the love we should have for our brothers and sisters and turns it into something ugly and cold.
"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me, everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you."
May we encourage and inspire others through our actions and our speech. Too often our actions speak louder than our words. Words cut deep, but our actions can bring healing to those wounds we have caused or opened as we have gathered around the camp fire. When we gather might we gather together in hope and love showing just how mighty God's Light of Truth is. May He shine through us, warming those around us with a brotherly love that invites the heart to glow.