Is gossip a sin? I didn't used to think so. Then along came a new employee where I work. I don't like him. He doesn't pull his weight. He flakes out, cancels appointments, and doesn't show up when he's supposed to. I've spent a lot of time criticizing him to my co-workers. My thoughts go something like this: "I'm a better employee than he is. I could do his job with one hand tied behind my back." I easily justify my gossip because he deserves the criticism.
At a ladies Bible study recently, someone brought up the word 'repentance.' As I listened to her talk, I thought, "I don't need to repent. Repentance is for people who aren't saved. It's for the wicked and sinful who are out in the world doing unspeakable things. It's for people at a Billy Graham crusade who take the long walk to the altar to become born again. But it's not for me. I'm following God's will. I'm I Christian. What to I have to repent of?"
When I look at my life, I use a sliding scale of righteousness. I'm not as bad as him, but I'm not as good as her. I assume I'm doing all the right things. I rarely question my motives.
One day I heard that my co-worker's boss put him on written notice because of his performance. I secretly gloated he might lose his job. Imagine my surprise when the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. He reminded me of a verse, "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness. James 3:9 (NIV) This was like a baseball bat to my solar plexus. Is gossip a sin? I realized it was. I needed to repent. How could I bring my offering to the altar of God with hate in my heart?
What I'm learning about repentance is this. God, your word says I'm to be the expression of Your love and grace to humanity. Let me see this person through Your eyes. Is he a lost and dying soul? Yes. Does he need Jesus? Definitely. The only thing my criticism does is make me feel better for a short period of time.
Repentance hasn't been easy. I try to change my behavior on my own. I tell my self I'll try harder, do better, and stop criticizing. When my co-worker's name comes up, I'll only think happy thoughts. As if it's up to me. I can't even repent without Christ! He reminds me again and again how His grace was extended to me when I didn't deserve it. It's been difficult. I still don't like the guy at work, but God tells me to love him. My flesh likes to feel superior, but God tells me to put to death the deeds of the flesh.
Every time I return to criticism, I crawl back to Jesus, confess my sin, and start over. I'm grateful for God's grace and the forgiveness I receive because of Jesus, who took on the sins of the world. Even my gossip.