Billy Graham once remarked that, “A real Christian is a person who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip.” Be that as it may gossip – from the prying of the newspaper gossip columns to the wickedness of the ‘behind-the-back’ remarks in communities – has always struck me as representing one of the least pleasant sides of human nature. There is never any need to add the word “malicious” to describe it, for all tittle-tattle is harmful.
The Hebrew word translated “gossip” in the Old Testament is defined as “one who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.” A gossiper is a person who has privileged information about people (or if they don’t they make it up) and proceeds to reveal that information to those who have no business knowing it. The writer of the Proverbs states, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid someone who talks too much” while St Paul is critical more than once of “gossips and busybodies.”
So we might be a little taken aback when preachers and evangelists encourage us to “gossip the gospel.” I have heard some say it trivialises our mission responsibilities, but the more I think about it the more excited I am and long for people in churches worldwide to do it.
Michael Green suggests that it is something the early Church did and we should be willing to copy the idea. “This must often have been not formal preaching, but the informal chattering to friends and chance acquaintances, in homes and wine shops, on walks, and around market stalls. They were everywhere gossiping the gospel; they did it naturally, enthusiastically, and with the conviction of those who are not paid to say that sort of thing. Consequently, they were taken seriously, and the movement spread.”
What better time to start doing this than at Advent (when we try and enthuse others with the thrill we have in expecting the second coming of Jesus); at Christmas (when we share the good news of the birth of Jesus and rejoice in the message of the angels); and at Epiphany (when we think of those who journeyed to visit the young Jesus).
Gossiping the gospel is exactly what the shepherds did after their visit to the baby Jesus, it’s what the Samaritan woman at the well did, it’s what people who were healed by Jesus did – and I wouldn’t mind betting that every person who encountered Jesus couldn’t wait to spread the word!
We live in an age where it is increasingly hard to be comfortable with being enthusiastic about our faith. But Christmas reminds us that we have much to be thankful to God for and much that we can’t help but share. We think of the incredible fact that God sent his Son, his only Son, to live, die and rise again for us.
Peter and John said in Acts 4:20 that “We cannot but speak the things we have heard and seen.” Gossiping the gospel is about sharing the juicy tidbits we know and the things we have experienced when it comes to God, Jesus, the Spirit and our faith. It could be the best New Year resolution you’ll ever make.