In 1887 Abraham Lincoln’s body was exhumed on the persistent rumor that his grave was empty. The exhumation revealed his remains intact. Facts mess up rumors! But, good rumors never die easily. Fourteen years later the same rumor resurfaced.
Cleon Lyles once wrote the following: “When I hear statements about people, made by those who do not know them, and when I read things in some papers about churches and people, written by those who have no knowledge of the situation, I am reminded of what one person said about a lady, ‘She’s afflicted with rumortism.’”
“It is never possible to have confidence in the honesty of one who speaks and writes about people and things of which he has no knowledge. Such conduct is not that of one who is governed by the spirit of the Master.” (Church of Christ Reminder, Feb. 18, 1960, p. 27).
In 2 Kings 7:3-15 we have a picture of how rumors get started, how they work and how they ought to be handled. Four lepers, facing death in a famine, approached a Syrian camp hoping for the best. To their amazement they found the camp empty. Earlier the Lord had caused the Syrians to hear the sound of approaching armies and they fled leaving the camp intact. The lepers pillaged the camp to their delight. Their consciences got the better of them, so they went to the city gate of Samaria to report what they had discovered. When the report reached the king of the city he drew his own conclusions of a master takeover plot by the crafty Syrians. But, before a rumor to this effect could get started a servant persuaded the king to send others to “Go and see” if his assumptions were correct (Vs. 14). That action yielded the truth and put a stop to a false rumor.
If a rumor was to circulate about a good brother in Christ would we trouble ourselves to “go and see” what the truth might be? When brotherhood talebearers, who are afflicted with chronic rumortism, go up and down among the people repeating things that have been heard for years do we think that the matter is fully and accurately represented? If a rumor casts aspersions against a brother’s character, or soundness in the faith, are we quick to believe it? If we hear something about an otherwise faithful brother that disturbs us, what would keep us from going to him in the spirit of love and concern and personally asking him about it? Are we too shy, fearful or cowardly? Do we really care what the brother has to say for himself? Would we brush off our duty to go to our brother with the lame defense that the evidence speaks for itself? And what evidence would that be? Would it be the “evidence” of long established rumors? Or, even if we were to allow the accused brother to speak for himself would we dismiss his testimony as a lie? Maybe it is simply easier to read what is said in papers, bulletins, emails and those lovely anonymous letters. In the matter of one who offends us Jesus taught the wisdom of going to him and discussing the problem face to face (Matt. 18:15-17). If this practice were to be utilized in the area of false reports it would seem that the rumor mills would grind to a screeching halt in a hurry.