A Maine Newspaper charged a local politician with gossiping recently. The local political leader commented on the admitted sexual affair of a fellow politician while appearing on a radio talk show. There is speculation that the politician fathered a child with the mistress.
The local politician said on the radio, "I feel sorry for his family because, how horrible." This comment would have been fine if it hadn't gone any further. It did, however, go further with the leader asking the host of the radio show, "But also don't you think he is the father of the child." The leader continued, "Would he go sneaking into a hotel in the middle of the night to see a child who is not his? I don't think so."
Is this gossip? The dictionary defines gossip as, "idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others." Also, "light, familiar talk or writing." A gossiper is "a person given to tattling or idle talk."
The adulterer claims he is NOT the father of the child. A campaign staffer claims that he IS the father. That is all anyone, except for those directly involved, know at this point. Everyone might be lying. This is true. If they are the lies are likely to be revealed in this matter.
I would feel guilty over the charge of gossiping. Any Christian should. It is not easy to suffer the glare of public scrutiny. I have failed to speak appropriately at times as leader of the Christian Civic League of Maine. It is good that leaders are called to account for their public speculations. Leaders should be held to high standards.
I like what I read in a leadership email that I received the other day. The email offered some lessons that are made accessible to us by public failures like the one that engulfed the philandering Senator. The writer of the email observes, "While our outrage at disgraced leaders may be justified, we fail to realize how quickly 'they' become 'us.' The distance between beloved leader and despised failure is shorter than we think. Like anyone, these fallen leaders never set out to sacrifice their integrity, abandon ethical behavior, or exploit those they led. But it happened anyway. Their failures should be our cautions."
A popular scripture verse is rendered in Eugene Peterson's Message, "It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own." This idea is contained in a sermon by Jesus. Earlier in the sermon Jesus comments on sexual infidelity. He teaches, "You know the commandment pretty well, too: 'Don't go to bed with another's spouse.' But don't think you've preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body."
We must allow the failings of others to challenge us. I remember being taught as a youngster, "There but for the grace of God go I."
The wayward Senator is being punished, and there is surely more to follow. It is best for us not to pile on. We must see all of this as an opportunity to learn how not to lust and gossip ourselves. Then, we will become better Christians ... better people.