A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends. (Proverbs 16:28, NKJV)
Gossip destroys trust. Openness is ruined by spreading harmful information about others. Trusting relationships are left in shambles when we talk to the wrong people about other people. Gossip, by definition, hurts and destroys instead of building up a person (Colossians 4:6). Gossip never addresses the party of which it speaks; it thrives in anonymity (“don’t tell anyone I said this”) and deniability (“I only said what was true”). This proverb says such a person is “perverse” (deceitful, fraudulent). It may be said of the whisperer that “perversity is in his heart, he devises evil continually, he sows discord” (Proverbs 2:14). Gossip is not a victimless sin. It leaves strife, suspicion, and separation in its wake. Gossip puts others down. It elevates the whisperer at the expense of others, without considering how his words disturb and distress the lives of others. Let us check our words before we speak, to be sure they impart grace for edification, not disdain and destruction (Ephesians 4:29).
4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. (Romans 12:4–5, NKJV)
The church is depicted as a body – its members having different functions, but all aimed toward the singular, united purpose of serving the will of its head, who is Christ. This picture of the church as a body draws our attention to the unity to which we are called as Christians. Division is roundly condemned in the Scriptures as a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:20). Christians are united in our faith, in our common salvation, and in our mutual care for one another. To the extent that Christians refuse to consider ourselves “members of one another,” they contribute to discord in the body of Christ. The church suffers when fellow Christians will not work and worship together in mutual faith, mutual love and mutual reverence for the Lord. Each Christian has an important place in the body of Christ, which includes “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Each member of the body of Christ is more effective and faithful as we all remember we are “individually members of one another.”
7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land. 8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13:7–9, NKJV)
Family members ought to be able to resolve differences between them. The contention between Abram and Lot’s herdsmen affected their masters as well as the inhabitants of the land who witnessed the discord. Strife is that way. It impacts others in addition to its principal parties. It takes faith and humility to end a quarrel; any fool can start one (Prov. 20:3). Abram’s faith rose above the animosity as he offered Lot first pick of the land. To Abram, it didn’t matter who was “right” and who was “wrong.” Furthermore, by rights (as the eldest and Lot’s uncle), Abram should have had first choice. But, what mattered most to Abram was ending the strife in a fair and lasting manner. So, he deferred to Lot and trusted the Lord bless him, which He did (Gen. 13:14-18). Similar honor is needed in the church, the family of God. Putting an end to strife requires having the faith to “accept the wrong” and to then move forward, instead of bitterly clinging to the past (1 Cor. 6:7).