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Q & A

Q. Why is it so important to stop listening to a slanderer? If I know that what he says is not true, can’t I just disregard it?

A. If you listen long enough, you will always be affected. Proverbs 26:22 says, “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.” It is like Christmas candy. You think: “They’re so little and dainty they certainly won’t hurt you.” Yet, after Christmas, when it is too late, you discover you have gained weight. It tasted good, but you hurt your body. Two things are always true: A little gossip or slander tastes good; a little gossip or slander affects you in a bad way.

Some people may think: “I’m so close to this person and love him so much that no amount of bad communication about him could ever affect me.[”] But Proverbs 16:28 says: “a slanderer separates intimate friends.” Don’t be deceived. Slander will always affect you unless you cut it off and correct the person.

The person who says or thinks that it won’t affect him already has a problem — pride. Proverbs 3:7 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” A person who is wise in his own eyes will think that he is strong enough to resist evil and will not flee from it.

Q. Can slander be written as well as verbal?

A. The courts would call this libel. Libel (written slander) is even more deceptively disarming to a person, and is certainly more perpetual. It should be turned away from no less than verbal slander. In such a case, it would be wise to show it to your elders and get their counsel on what to do, if anything.

Q. What should I do if I have listened to gossip or slander?

A. Confess it as sin, forsake it, and claim God’s forgiveness and cleansing (Proverbs 28:13).

B. If you have passed it on, contact the persons you talked to, apologize, and this time say only something good about the person you talked about (Romans 12:21).

C. In humility but with firmness, go back and tell the person who talked to you that you never want to hear an unkind word against a brother again. He should get with the person himself and next time bring a good report. If there is a problem at this point, get a mature person or elder to help you (Galatians 6:1).

D. Learn how to bring every suspicious thought into captivity to Christ (II Corinthians 10:5). Fill your mind with righteous thoughts (Philippians 4:8).

Q. Is it sin to differ with one another, or with a leader?

A. Differences of opinion and doctrinal positions, although not God’s desire (I Corinthians 1:10), are acceptable in the church (Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8). They would only be unacceptable when they relate to an error concerning the person and work of Christ (Ephesians 4:4-6 and Titus 3:4-8) or if they are used to hurt others and cause controversy and division (Titus 3:9-10).

A believer who has right motives will seek to resolve differences righteously. But if he goes behind the person’s back and uses the difference of opinion to turn others against him, it would only reveal that he is in some way jealous or selfishly ambitious (James 3:13:18 [sic]). We should never promote our opinions in a way that exalts ourselves and puts others down. Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love, give preference to one another in honor.” If promoting an opinion causes people to think less of another, it is neither loving, honoring, nor giving preference.

Sometimes, if we are unable to resolve a difference of opinion, it may make it impossible to work together in a practical way. However, even then there is no cause for slander and division. In Acts 13:39 a sad event took place. Barnabas and Paul could not agree concerning whether to take John Mark with them on their journey. “There arose such a sharp disagreement that they (Barnabas and Paul) separated from one another…”

Notice that there is no hint whatsoever of Paul or Barnabas going to others to slander and divide. Paul did not seek to turn people away from fellowship, love, and confidence in Barnabas, nor did Barnabas do this to Paul. Separation is surely not God’s desire, but even so, slander, gossip, and strife are never justifiable (Proverbs 6:12-19).

Q. What if things really are wrong, especially with a leader? What if a leader falls into sin?

A. Matthew 18:15-17 would apply to a leader in the same way as it would to anyone else. I Timothy 5:19-20 also has special application to leaders.

Q. Were slander and division common problems in the New Testament churches?

A. Every epistle in the New Testament, except Philemon, has either admonitions concerning slander, defenses against specific charges and accusations, or warnings about individuals who were trying to divide the flocks. In fact, most of the book of II Corinthians was written to counter slander and false accusations against Paul. Slander and division always have been and probably always will be one of Satan’s main weapons to undermine the kingdom of God.

Of all the five portions on church discipline, two of them — Romans 16:17 and Titus 3:10 — deal exclusively with slander and division, and the other portions would also apply to these sins. No other sin is dealt with so often and in such detail in the passages on church discipline. Clearly this was a very common point of attack for the devil in the early church.

The churches in the New Testament times were united and knit together in love and were striving for a common purpose. They were like an army. Churches today that are mobilizing as an army to advance the gospel will assuredly encounter opposition to much the same degree as they did in the New Testament. They will be the main point of attack for the devil, who will try to discredit them with all kinds of accusations and slander. We should realize that men who fear God the most and churches that pursue hardest in the mission of Christ will always receive the greatest “honors” of the attention of Satan.

We should always be encouraged when we encounter opposition. In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus said “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Paul writes in II Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

—By Herschel Martindale

Responses

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