This is the eleventh blog in this series on love according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
The original Greek word for protect in this verse is pronounced stegō. It means: 1) to preserve 2) to cover over with silence 2) to keep secret 3) to hide, conceal the errors and faults of others.
To protect someone means to protect all that concerns them. This includes protecting their reputation.
I learned what it means to protect someone’s reputation by seeing how my husband protects mine. He is always building me up to others. I often think he makes me sound better than I am. I’ve even seen him make himself look bad in order to protect my reputation. He goes out of his way to make me look good. He does this because he loves me.
If we want to love others then we have to protect their reputation. We don’t protect people’s reputation when we gossip. Proverbs shares many verses on gossip and the reasons why we need to avoid it.
Proverbs 18:8 shares the most important reason. Solomon must have thought so because he repeated it in verse 26:22. The NLT version explains it as:
Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart.
Gossip contaminates our heart. 2 Timothy 2:16 says, Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
When we put others down we take ourselves down. Gossiping may seem harmless and feel good at the time, but it gradually hardens our heart. It is impossible to love others when our hearts are hardened.
Proverbs 16:28 shares another reason why we need to avoid gossip. It reads, A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends. I wonder how many friendships have been destroyed over gossip. I wonder how many families have been divided over gossip. Gossip spreads like wildfire and doesn’t go out until someone puts it out. The more it spreads the more it deceives.
Years ago I had someone spread gossip about me. It made its rounds through many people. By the time it came around to me it was almost comical. The story was twisted so far from the truth that you knew each person had to have added something new as they shared it with the next. What hurt most was that I had done nothing wrong in the first place. The one who started it didn’t agree with something I was doing, so they took it and twisted it to make me sound bad.
Proverbs 26:20 says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.”
Every one that shared the gossip threw their wood into that fire to keep it going. All it would’ve taken was one person to stand up and say, “I’m not going to accept that.” The fire would’ve ended there and never made it back to me.
We may not be the ones who spread gossip, but how many times do we sit in the middle of gossip and just listen? To protect someone’s reputation means that we’ll have to stand up in others’ defense when they’re being talked about.
I remember calling my mom one time to talk about someone who wronged me. I expected her to listen to my complaints, but instead she started saying positive things about this person. At first I got irritated because it threw me off. But after hearing the things she said about them my heart started softening. God used that conviction to help me turn from it so He could pour His love into my heart for that person. That moment I saw the reason why God wants us to protect people’s reputations – it changes our heart.
Leviticus 19:16 says, “Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD. “
People’s lives can be dramatically affected by gossip. How many Hollywood stars will never be respected because their mistakes have been shared with the world. We are to build up, not tear down. When we build others up and protect their reputations, God will protect ours.
I encourage you to pray for God to help you protect others. Pray for courage to stand up and defend those who are being slandered. As you build others up God will build you up.
…but love (affection and goodwill and benevolence) edifies and builds up and encourages one to grow [to his full stature].
1 Corinthians 8:1 AMP
Amanda Beth is a wife and mother of four children, and author of an upcoming book titled: YOU CAN HAVE A HAPPY FAMILY Steps to Enjoying Your Marriage and Children. She has been married for 14 years and has experienced transformation in her life and marriage since she surrendered her heart to Christ ten years ago. http://www.amandabeth.net/