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Tuesday, February 13, 2018


The legal definition of "slander" is "the oral communication of false statements that are harmful to a person's reputation." That would differentiate between "libel" which would be a written or published communication of false statements harmful to a person's reputation. That's the legal reputation. Interestingly, the dictionary defines slander as "defamatory words spoken about a person." Note the difference. The legal definition requires that the statement be false, but the general definition merely requires that it is harmful to their reputation.

God's Word isn't ambiguous on the subject of slander.
Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. (James 4:11)

Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy. (Psa 101:5)

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. (Titus 3:1-2)

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. (1 Peter 2:1)

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Eph 4:31)
God considers our tongues to be dangerous (James 3:1-8). We are told to guard our mouths (Prov 21:23) and to be slow to speak (James 1:19). David prays, "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!" (Psa 141:3) Solomon declares, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." (Prov 18:21) We are far too cavalier with our mouths, especially in this digital age.

Biblical slander doesn't include the "false" component. It simply refers to speaking against another. It includes the concept of malice (and, as such, might include a false connotation). The point is not whether the statement is true or false; the point is whether the intent is to harm the person being referenced. We often hide behind that legal requirement. If it's not true, it's off limits, but if it's true, we're free to run people down as we please. Scripture doesn't allow for that. Biblical slander is speaking with the intent to besmirch the reputation of another even if the speech is accurate.

The Bible is quite clear, on the other hand, that we aren't supposed to ignore sin. We don't keep quiet about it. "If anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness." (Gal 6:1) Jesus was quite clear that we don't remain silent. We seek to remedy it by first showing him his fault in private, then taking two or more, then taking it to the church, then removing the offender (Matt 18:15-20). The point is neither "Never make a false accusation" nor "Never say anything negative about someone." The biblical approach is to seek restoration on the basis of love.

We live in a fast-paced, largely anonymous digital world. We will cruise the Internet and the Twittersphere or anywhere else those with whom we disagree might be and blister them with our digital words. Sure, it's what you might expect from unbelievers, but it would be extremely naive to suggest that only they do it. We Christians who seek to follow Christ remain just as guilty. We excuse ourselves because, after all, it's true that this false teacher is a false teacher or that blogger is wrong, holding views we find offensive. If, however, we wish to be followers of Christ, it will require that we love our neighbor as ourself (Matt 22:39) rather than seek to destroy his reputation online. It demands
a deep and abiding love of the truth, but also a love of fellow believers that should be restored rather than annihilated. Even when we're right about their errors, when we address them with malice, we stand guilty of God's version of slander, for which we should repent and seek restoration ... for ourselves and for others.

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