Angry Over Rumors

I work in a place that gives people experiencing homelessness chances to step up and take the opportunities we have to offer. Whether it's employment, housing, sobriety or volunteering, I find it a privilege and an honor! I love being able to offer people these opportunities.

I also love watching people grab the "bull by the horns" and go with it. I love seeing God transform someone who's been in prison, someone who's addicted, gang-banging or whatever their vice may be, and watch them change and move forward. I love watching people grab the opportunities and sober up, find housing and get jobs! 

I love seeing all that, but unfortunately, there's something that often goes with it! Something I hate! Something that drives me crazy. Too often there are people, (or as the person asking question puts it), there are snakes in the grass spreading rumors, gossiping and trying to bring these people down. Unfortunately, it's something I see all the time. 

Just last week, I had to use a lot of energy calming one such person down. This guy had a reputation; he'd spent many years in prison, he'd also been homeless, addicted and had a long history of gang-banging, but he had been turning all that around. It was great to see and he was doing so well, we actually hired this guy.

On this particular day, he was very angry. He was about to snap, because people were badmouthing him and bringing up his past. They were exaggerating, lying about him and making huge issues out of any small mistake he'd make. He was so mad, he wanted to find these people spreading rumors and snap their necks. At that moment, he didn't care, he was ready to lose all he had gained.

Unfortunately, this "he-said, she-said" stuff can be like a cancer that eats away at us. I can't tell you how many times I've spoken to people who tell me they returned to drinking, using drugs, prison, fighting and whatnot, because of rumors and gossip.

It happens to all of us, doesn't it? Our names are thrown in the mud, and we've all thrown others in the mud too. I know I have! Unfortunately and regrettably, I've said things I shouldn't have said, I've believed things I shouldn't have believed and I've agreed to things I shouldn't have agreed too! 

All throughout my life, I've witnessed the power of harmful and destructive words, wreaking havoc in our neighborhoods, work places, churches and programs. As much as we all wish we could cut the rumors and gossip off at the source, they unfortunately remain! They are not going anywhere!

And that is why we need to work out how we can deal with this in a godly and loving way.

Bad mouthing someone isn't just a modern day problem, it's always happened. Jesus and John the Baptist also had to cope with negative and hurtful things being said about them, and they didn't have a past! Just like you and me, they had to deal with countless lies, exaggerations and a whole lot of back-stabbing. 

In Luke 7:33-35, Jesus says these words; “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” [NIV]

As we see, Jesus and John the Baptist were both victims of gossips and rumors. These 2 men lived very differently; they ate differently, drunk differently, wore different clothes, lived in different locations and hung around with different crowds. John the Baptist was a loner in the desert, always fasting, wearing clothes made of camel hair and eating locusts and honey, whereas Jesus moved around from town to town, wearing more comfortable clothes, doing miracles and feasting with the locals. 

Jesus illustrates this point because, even though they may have lived very differently, they were united in one important thing; they were both doing exactly what God wanted them to do! And even though they were both doing what exactly God wanted them to do, they both had mud slung at them, they were both judged and they were both lied about!

I want to quickly highlight 2 things we can learn from these words that Jesus said. 

Firstly: There's a phrase I use all the time at CCO and I've said it here at The Bridge before; It goes "Don't let nobody live rent-free in your head!" Jesus and John didn't let these false accusations and harsh judgements get them down. They didn't allow these talkers to occupy their heads, because they knew the Truth. They didn't get into a mudslinging match with them. They basically ignored them. 

If we want to control our anger, we gotta follow their examples! We can't allow people to move into our heads and live rent-free. When we allow people to do that, we will be consumed by them, they will depress us and make us mad. If we are wasting energy by plotting revenge, looking for ways to back-stab them or finding ways to hurt them, we have someone living rent-free in our heads and we need to evict them.

It's hard to do, but if we want peace, true inner peace, we need to pray for them, forgive them and not give them the luxury of living rent-free in our heads. When someone spreads rumors, they want their opinion to count, but we have to realize, it doesn't matter. 

Secondly, when we refuse to give them any head-space, when we evict them, we are letting them know; God's opinion is the only Opinion that counts, so we need to live our lives to the fullest!

Jesus and John received a lot more bad mouthing than anyone in this room, but that didn't stop them from doing right, they kept doing what they needed to do! They lived their lives to the fullest! The end of that passage says; "but wisdom is proved right by all her children!" Or as the Message puts it; "Opinion polls don't count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating!" 

Jesus is telling us, stay focused and do the work of the kingdom. Don't give in! Don't get sidetracked! Don't get distracted! Keep your eyes in the prize! God is watching and He is noticing!

This is what both Jesus and John the Baptist did. They knew what they had to do, and they did it. They made wise choices and did what was needed to be done! They knew, the opinions from a "snake in the grass" causes only discord, and it doesn't matter. They knew, only God's opinion matters, so they went about doing HIS will.

God sees us, and that's what counts. God sees our efforts, and that's what counts! Rumors and gossips, though they can be very hurtful, are only noise! He calls us to keep pressing on. He calls to make wise choices! He calls us to pray, and He promises us His Holy Spirit; who will direct us and strengthen us along the way!

Thankfully, my friend, who I mentioned at the start, didn't snap! He moved on, he didn't allow the snakes badmouthing him to live rent-free in his head and he kept on pressing forward. He's focused, and doing what he needs to do! 

I want to end by encouraging you all: Live your life to the fullest, and let God do the judging, He's got your back. If you're in rehab, keep fighting, keep doing what you need to do, stay away from that bottle, stay away from that pipe, that needle, those pills, because God knows your struggle, He loves you and He will give you strength.

Remember; God's opinion of you is the only opinion that really counts! 

So as you go out; dismiss the rumors and gossiping as mere noise, don't let people live rent-free in your heads and live your lives to the fullest; live the way God wants you to live! 

*A brief summary of why I wrote this: There's a ministry on the West-side of Chicago called Mission:USA; every Tuesday night they have a Church service called The BRIDGE. Their services are open to everybody, but especially those who find it hard to gel in their local congregations! Or to put into cruder terms; a lot of these men and women are ex-offenders, homeless and low-income folk who have felt ostracized and rejected by many churches, so their mission is to be a bridge between prison, the streets and the Church. The Bridge helps these wonderful men and women find churches that will welcome them with open arms.....
And isn't this exactly what the Gospel and the "Kingdom of God" is all about?

Every Tuesday night, The Bridge has a host team from a Church, who greet the guests and provide a meal. The guests anonymously submit questions about their "walk of faith", and staff from The Bridge pick out a relevant question. Meanwhile, they have invited 3 pastors from 3 different churches to come and give a 10 minute sermon each about this specific question or topic. In my humble opinion, this is a great concept and ministry, who's staff is very loving, compassionate and supportive to the "least of these".
This was a sermon preached on 10/13/15, in response to this question;Anger Over Rumors!"
I want to be less angry. I’m going to be leaving rehab soon, and I want to stay sober, and so I know I can’t let myself get angry about things. There are lots of gossips out there, and snakes in the grass spreading rumors, so how can I ignore that, and focus on the good?
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