I was thinking back to when I was in elementary school, of how mean and unfair the bullies were. I had a couple of bullies over me, and I'm sure that bullies are in every classroom in every generation of students. It is one unfortunate aspect of living in a fallen world.
We had a teacher who was in a bad mood. She kept the students in my class after school for some unknown reason. As we were sitting in this classroom, the bully was causing trouble. She had no trouble speaking up for herself, nor did she have any reservations about speaking against others. I'm still not sure why we were sitting in this classroom, on this school day afternoon, but the bully announced to this teacher that I was looking out the window. She was very accusatory of me. I still don't even know what the crime was for looking out the window, and I don't even remember doing that! Needless to say, because the bully spoke up and told the teacher a lie about me, I got in trouble! I don't think I ever got mad before that point in my life, but I was really, really mad now. The teacher made me stay after for an extra amount of time for looking out the window! And its all the bully's fault! She lied about me!
I laugh about it today. This incident is probably long forgotten by everyone else, but it is a good example of what happens when we are lied about. Another term for this is called, 'slander'.
The goal of slander is to destroy the credibility of a person. Usually, there is some truth to the slander, but by the time it is communicated to the public, the story looks a lot different than what really happened.
I think of the story of Jonathan Edwards while he was pastoring at Northampton, Massachusetts. Someone was really irritated with his preaching and took it upon himself to slander Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards lost the pulpit because the people listened to the slanderer and believed the lies that were being purported.
Here is a definition of slander from the legal dictionary:
slander n. oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed.
On this web page, there are a number of Bible verses dealing with the subject of slander: http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionary-of-bible-themes/5951-slander
One such verse is this, from Matthew 15:19-20a "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person." ESV.
Here are some verses dealing with slander from the book of Ephesians, chapter 4: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." ESV.
There are incidents from the Bible that describe what slander looks like. For example, Jezebel hired some scum of the earth guys to falsely accuse Naboth, in order to get rid of him. Her husband, King Ahab, was having a pity party because Naboth had beautiful gardens that were probably a family inheritance passed down to him. Ahab wanted the gardens for himself, but Naboth was unable to give them to Ahab, so Ahab was irate and went pouting home. King Ahab's wife had a solution though. She planned to get rid of Naboth so that Ahab could have his gardens. She was successful in getting the legal system to believe her lies when she hired some guys that would accuse Naboth of things that he didn't do, but would require him to have to die. Naboth was killed, as Jezebel desired, but God was displeased. Ahab never got the beautiful gardens he wanted. Everyone lost out on this one.
People did the same things to Jesus, when He was in court. They accused Him of many different things. One thing they accused Him of, and what was most successful in achieving their goals, was their accusation of blasphemy. They didn't really understand that Jesus was telling the truth, so they won in court. We know the rest of the story though. God used all that to bring about His plan of redemption. Jesus was accused of many false things, even though His life showed just the opposite.
Today it is no different. People accuse Christians of many things. Some are just warning others about a potential danger (whistle blowing) while others take this step much further with the intent to defame the Christian. I am reminded of one of my friends who was falsely accused of being flirtatious with someone, and it caused her to have to be isolated from other Christians in her church, and she was not allowed to work with the children in that particular church. She handled it gracefully. I think I would have been irate. God would have to have worked in my heart in a big way if I were falsely accused like that.
I am writing this article because there seems to be a rash today of slander on Christian pastors and leaders that are well known in Christian circles. Granted, no pastor is perfect and all, without exception, are going to make mistakes. We all do. If we are in the lime light, that makes it harder though, because people notice and complain. Then they read things into the situation that aren't there. They make false judgments and assumptions. Stories that start off simple become stretched way out of proportion. I have seen many well respected men of God being projected as evil or, as false teachers. There doesn't seem to be much ground to base these assumptions on, but I see how angry people are using the internet, Facebook, Twitter, blogs (in a big way), as well as using the media to promote the supposed evil of the accused. As Christians, this should NEVER be the case. If we are truly born again, and are living in the grace of God, we do everything necessary to bring reconciliation and restoration in the body of Christ. We need to be careful, and this is so important, that we don't listen to just one side of the story and make our conclusions. We really have to have the whole story to get the right context of what is going on. If we don't, we will be joining in with slander as well. Also remember, the newspapers and magazines eat slander up. Even Christian magazines are just as guilty of doing this, which is unfortunate.
Yes, God wants us to point out those who are teaching another Gospel. We point them out and we pray for them. It doesn't have to go any further than that. I don't have to make blogs up telling people all the things that Rob Bell does to undermine the Gospel. I just state the facts and the readers can evaluate those facts for themselves. Nothing more needs to be done.
When you see blogs with unlimited numbers of complaints against a person, take heed. This is probably a sign of an angry person wanting to destroy someone's reputation. These blogs are everywhere. God is not pleased, but angry when we slander. Slander basically comes under the category of lying. If we truly have a complaint against another believer, we take the steps of Matthew 18 and work them out from there. Once that is done, there is absolutely no need to go on the internet and slam the other believer. Also, we are in the wrong when we bring our brothers and sisters to court. I am not talking about if someone is robbing your house, or doing personal harm to someone. Of course, that needs to be taken care of legally. But the intent of the Bible is to work things out, so that reconciliation and restoration will take place.
A question for you: Do you really think God is glorified when we backbite a person, or, tell others the bad things about a person? Do you think God is big enough to expose a person's sins when necessary? If we have a complaint and want to work through an issue with someone, after we have followed the Biblical directives, can we just leave it with the Lord to work the details out? Or did we not get what we wanted and are we continuing to strive to make this thing work in our favor, even though we have committed it to the Lord? Does the Lord need thousands of blog pages to do His work? If something serious needs to be addressed, can't it only involve the people who have been affected by it? Does the world have to know all about the situation? I think you know the answers to these questions.