Babe Dahlgren was enjoying the off season after winning the 1939 World Series with the New York Yankees baseball club. Back home in San Francisco he decided to meet with a local batting instructor for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League to get some friendly tips. When he re-joined the Yankees in St. Petersburg, Florida, for spring training, his manager was suddenly very cold towards Babe. Unbeknownst to Babe, the batting instructor was a long-time enemy of his baseball manager. And now his baseball manager no longer wanted anything to do with Babe, despite his great fielding abilities and steady bat.
After a game where Babe made a rare error, his manager was talking to reporters, when off the top of his head, without an ounce of proof, he said, “If Babe had not been smoking marijuana, he would have made that play.” Thus began the rumor that Babe’s grandson, Matt Dahlgren, writes about in his book, “Rumor in Town.”
In those days smoking marijuana could get you kicked out of baseball for life. Of course the manager had no proof, but his position gave him enough influence and power to get Babe traded to another team, even though he was a great fielder and batter. The rumor seemed to follow Babe as he got sent from team to team. Babe wondered why he kept getting traded while he was leading the league in several categories.
It would be years before Babe would learn that a rumor was going around about him. In a meeting with his team executive, while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was asked about doing drugs. The team executive used the rumor to try to intimidate Babe to go down to the minor leagues.
Babe did his best to try to clear his name of this rumor, but trying to find out who has heard a rumor is like emptying a box of feathers into the wind and then trying to gather them all up. They are impossible to trace and recover.
Matt Dahlgren goes on to write that this Brooklyn Dodger executive was the same man who brought Jackie Robinson into major league baseball and broke the foolish color barrier that had for so long oppressed the United States.
I was perplexed at the inconsistency in this executive, but then I realized he represents the entire human race, even many Christians. On one hand he is a hero who relieved oppression by breaking the color barrier in baseball. On the other hand, he caused oppression for Babe by continuing the rumor. I laid the book down for a moment and prayed that God would keep me from doing like what was done to Babe.
Babe loved the game of baseball and devoted himself to his team, yet his manager turned against him just because Babe talked to someone he did not like. Then others carried the rumor further, and still others used it as a weapon to blackmail and oppress Babe.
We need to be careful that we do not participate in any way by listening to and intentionally or unintentionally spreading rumor that will hurt others, as mentioned in this week’s SS lesson. While we think of political and social oppression and corruption being carried on in the world, let’s be careful we are not carrying it on in the church.
We may think of ourselves as good people, just as the executive probably did, but we may still be doing much harm and hurt by listening to, and even spreading rumors which may deeply hurt a brother or sister in the church! The executive may have thought the rumor to be true, and so may we. But that does not lessen our responsibility before God. Even spreading negative things that are totally true about someone may make us guilty before God because it is not a loving thing to do and thus not reflective of God’s character. The Apostle Peter reminds us to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
When rumors hurt people’s ministry, the cause of God suffers. Satan uses rumors to not only hurt the people the rumor is about, but to also taint or destroy their ministry to the point where their ministry is no longer useful to save lost souls. What a tragedy!
In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. James 3:5-6 NLT
Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart. Proverbs 18:8 NLT
It has been said that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me.” Nothing could be farther from the truth! Many people who have been abused physically as well as verbally say they would rather be physically abused than verbally abused. Physical abuse hurts the body but verbal abuse wounds the depths of the soul.
I know that God can foil all of Satan’s rumors and accusations so that all things work together for good to those who Love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) Like many others I have had rumors told about me. One time someone told a lie about me right in public. When I was talking it over with a friend to see how I should respond to clear myself of this lie, my friend wisely suggested, “Don’t respond to the rumor. By responding you only give the rumor merit.” I said nothing and later found out that everyone else either forgot what was said that day or was distracted when the person said it, and never heard the rumor at all!
That is how it worked out for me, but I know this is not always the case. This is why when I finished the book and put it down, I asked God to keep me from participating in a rumor that could destroy someone’s life!
The Yankee manager was foolish to let the fact that Babe saw an enemy of his bother him – especially since Babe had nothing but the best intentions in getting batting tips. Jealousy is a silly excuse to start a rumor, but does this happen in the church as well? When we entertain thoughts of jealousy, we may not even realize when we are gossiping and spreading rumors because what we think in our hearts will come out of our lips. (Matt 12:34)
We need to ask God to give us hearts like His – filled with a love that will never participate in any way in gossip that may hurt another of God’s children, either in the world or in the church.