How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. ... Psalms 62:3-4b
My phone started ringing; my e-mail began to fill up.
People wanted to know, "Have you heard ...? What do you think about ...? Do you think there is any other reason ...?"
They were, of course, talking about the announcement that the televangelist Joel Osteen had lost his faith, stepped down from his position at Houston's Lakewood Church, and was renouncing Christianity.
Later the story was exposed as a big hoax that had been set up by a man who wanted to have his 15 minutes of fame. This he decided to attain through an elaborate ruse, which created false websites filled with quotes from people who don't exist.
What that man did doesn't shock me. For thousands of years small people have tried to steal the glory from those who have attained some degree of power or respect. What surprised me was how quickly and readily some people believed those rumors.
Apparently, Luther had a better grasp of human nature than I do. In the Large Catechism he wrote,
"For it is a common evil plague that every one prefers hearing evil to hearing good of his neighbor; and although we ourselves are so bad that we cannot suffer that any one should say anything bad about us, but every one would much rather that all the world should speak of him in terms of gold, yet we cannot bear that the best is spoken about others."
Now I wouldn't bring up this matter of the rumors about Joel Osteen if it were a one-time thing. It isn't. Almost all of us, including our crucified and risen Savior, have suffered unwarranted and undeserved attacks upon our reputation. As Luther said, "it is a common evil."
Thankfully, this is a common evil which can be, in two easy steps, corrected. First, we honor the Savior by not spreading stories about others. Second, we glorify the Christ by refusing to listen to such stories when they are reported.
True, we will miss a bunch of gossip but, after all, it's only gossip that we will be missing.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, when You were on trial, they brought in false witnesses about You. I give thanks that none of those witnesses could come up with any negative fact that could tarnish Your perfect life. Grant that we, Your followers, may avoid sharing and listening to rumors about others. This I ask in Your Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries