The church is in the public arena.  The people and events associated with church life become the objects of either praise or scorn.  The praiseworthy church reflects the character of God's law in worship and morality.  The church that becomes the object of scorn reflects the character of Satan's deceptive devices.

The public sector judges the church based on the public lives of its members.  Specific sins such as gossip and slander practiced or known to be practiced by persons in the church bring great disgrace to the church.  Gossip is most often associated with someone spreading a rumor, which means a story, or statement is circulated without any confirmation or certainty.  Slander is a false or defamatory statement.

The Bible always uses the word "gossip" in a bad sense.  In 1 Timothy 3:11 women are told not to be malicious gossips.  In 2 Timothy 3:3 the word "malicious gossip" is used universally to apply to men and women.  The Greek word diabolos translates to the English "gossip" in both texts.  The Greek word diabolos is also translated "the devil" 34 times in the New Testament.  We get the English word diabolic from the Greek diabolos.  Obviously the apostle Paul intended to convey the wickedness of "malicious gossip."

The Bible uses the word slander in a most negative sense.  In fact the wisdom writer has said:  "He who spreads slander is a fool."  The Psalmist said:  "The fool has said in his heart, no God."  In either case the fool has no positive witness for the Lord God Almighty.  Slander is particularly detestable because it has the smell of murder.  To slander a person and destroy his name is not just a violation of the ninth commandment, but also the sixth commandment.

Gossip and slander are common sins in many churches today.  However, because of the nature of these sins, they are very difficult to discipline.  If the gossip is within the confines of the church, discipline is relatively simple.  Just follow the instructions in Matthew 18.  Follow them after consulting the full counsel of God,  such as the text in Galatians 6:1-2, especially verse 2.  Also check Matthew 6:15.  The more you study Scripture the bigger the snowball gets.

However, if the gossip is spread from within the church to those out of the church, it is merely hearsay and the third party outside the church refuses to reveal the spreader of the gossip, so the church suffers because of the sin of one of its members.

Gossip and slander have an advocate and his name is Satan..  He deceives people into thinking that it is permissible to gossip and slander and therefore break the sixth and ninth commandments.  John Calvin mentions a more applicable purpose in his commentary to 1 Timothy 5:19:  "He now tells Timothy not to let them [elders] be exposed to slanderous attacks or burdened with unsubstantiated and unsupported accusations…. For none are more to guard against malice of men in this way.  For none are more exposed to slander and insults than godly teachers . . .. It is indeed a trick of Satan to estrange men from their minister so as gradually to bring their teaching into contempt."  The apostle Peter inferred that Christians would be slandered as evildoers (2 Peter 2:12).  The Psalmist said no less in Psalm 41:5:  "My enemies speak evil against me…"

Godly ministers, elders, deacons, and church members will be the subject of gossip and slander if they preach, teach, and believe the full counsel of God.  It may be properly called the battle of the tongues.  The godly man seeks the truth from the word of God.  The slanderous man wants to have his own way apart from the word of God.  Since truth is not on his side, he must lie to get a hearing.  The writer of Proverbs explains:  "A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are as a scorching fire.  A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends" (Proverbs 16:27,28). 

Gossip and slander are terrible sins, but they are not unforgivable sins unless they are against the Holy Spirit.  When the gossiper or slanderer becomes aware of his or her sin, he or she must immediately ask forgiveness from the person about whom he or she spread the gossip or slander.