Thursday, January 3, 2013

Love Blankets

              If you live in the south you will understand completely the saying “Bless her/his heart”. When you hear that phrase something about the person usually follows, and it usually is not good. It is not uncommon to be in church and hear someone say, “Bless her heart, did you hear…” and some sin or some “trouble” that the person has fallen into comes right behind it. For some reason, us southerners think if we “bless their hearts” before we tell the tale, then what we are about to speak is not gossip, just genuine concern for our brother or sister. But gossip is gossip no matter how we try to disguise it.
                Today, reading in Genesis, I came across the tale of Noah and his son Ham. It was after the flood and Noah had planted a vineyard. Noah had done well with his vineyard and found himself to be quite drunk from the fruits of his labors. Some commentator’s state that perhaps Noah and his family had a feast, a harvest feast, and during this party Noah, who had never drank a drop in his life, found himself three sheets to the breeze. The Bible doesn't tell us exactly what happened to lead to Noah’s drunkenness, just that he was drunk. In the south we would tell the story like this: “Bless Noah’s heart, did you see how drunk he was? Poor fellow, bless his heart, he passed out naked as a jay-bird in his tent.” The bible however, gives us a less southern account:
                “And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.” Genesis 9:20-23
                The bible goes on to tell us that Noah awoke from his sleep and knew that Ham had spread the gossip of his discretion. (Whether the discretion was his being drunk or some other sin, we do not know, only that Ham told it out loud to his brothers.) Ham committed the first act of gossip recorded in the bible. He spread about to his brothers his father’s fault and sin. Gossip is a sin, ladies, no matter how we try to say it, no matter if we “bless their hearts” first, gossip is still gossip and it does not please the Lord.
                The Bible warns us women to not be gossipers. It seems that women have a tendency to tell the tales of others woes more than men do. There is a very valuable lesson we can learn here today about gossip and how we are to be towards it. I myself struggle with gossip. Not so much in the telling of it, but in the putting it to rest when I hear it. We all struggle with gossip in some way, but the Lord God wants us to “cover” and not “broadcast” the sins of others. We are to be “love covers” and not “gossip mongers”. Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.” Ham went about to stir up strife among his father and his brothers. He for some reason thought it was necessary to tell his brothers about his father’s discretion, not only that, but it seems he couldn’t wait to tell them either. (I am sure some of us have gotten that call too….”Oh sister, I just had to call you…always leads to gossip)
                But Shem and Japheth give us the example of what we are to do when we encounter gossip. They show us God’s way of dealing with the discretions of others. Many of us will find ourselves in situations where a friend of ours will begin to tell the tale of another sister’s trouble. Let us be mindful to not give into that. We must stop it before it gets started. By allowing the tale bearer to continue, not wanting to offend the teller, we are taking part in uncovering the nakedness of others. When someone comes to you and begins to tell you of another, stop them and make sure that the other person is aware of the conversation and that it is okay for you to hear it. Many times I have found myself in situations where a sister will call me and say, “Oh, so and so is asking for prayer. Please pray for them because of”….and the next thing you know intimate details about this other person are coming up. Let us be wary of this, and stop it. God knows the heart of the His people, all people. We don’t need to give details for someone to receive prayer; sometimes, just praying for the person by name is all we need to do.
                I have battled and battled with gossip time and time again, not only in the world, but within the church. I have spoken to women who have been hurt by it, and it has stopped them from forming lasting sister relationships within the church because of it. Gossip is out to do one thing and one thing only, and that is to make the teller feel better about their own faults. If we can tell others about the woes and troubles of others, then the focus is off of us and we can feel better about whom we are. This ought not to be so within the church, but unfortunately, it happens. But we as women of God can begin to put down the gossip and pick up our blankets of love and toss the covers over them before the whole world is made aware of it.
                We can do as Shem and Japheth did. The bible tells us that they did not look upon the nakedness of their father. They took a garment, backed into the tent and covered him. They did not say anything to anyone, the gossip that Ham gave them stopped with them; as it should with us. True love, true and pure love for one another, which Jesus urges us to have, should always seek to cover the sins of others. 1 Peter 4:8 tells us that “above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’.” God clearly wants us to love others; it is the second of the great commandments. Jesus tells us that the first great commandment is to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul and mind, and we are to love our brothers next. Love covers, gossip seeks to expose.
                Repeating a tragedy to others needs to be cleared by the person experiencing it first. If you find yourself in a situation that begins with “bless their heart”- walk away. Just walk away and if any offense is given, then explain to them what the bible warns about gossip. We should feel safe within our own churches to seek out prayer during our times of need, without the fear of someone telling the tale all over Facebook, or via email (which are tools of gossip as well if we are not careful). The sins of others are not for us to tell, nor is it for us to judge. We are to cover and to love, to seek to overlook the transgressions in the spirit of love and have mercy and compassion for one another. Gossip will tear apart, but love will always bring unity and peace. Just as a blanket covers our nakedness, so does love. Fervent love for one another will lead to grace and mercy, gossip will lead to hurt and division.
                So, if you are ever in the south and you hear “bless their heart”- run, run as fast as you can, because I promise you what follows is sin, and we are to not take part in it, but we are called to cover it in love. May the Lord God help us all be love covers and not gossip mongers. In Jesus Name, Amen and Amen.