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Craig Smith - Slander

Craig Smith - Slander
TOPICS: Toxic, Power of Words, Slander

Well, hey, Mission Hills, so good to have you with us today. If, you’re just joining us, we’re in the midst of a series called Toxic, obviously where we’re tackling some of the kinds of toxic talk that we all struggle with. And I planned for this series. God laid this series on my heart almost, well, it’s been over a year actually. And at the time that he laid it on my heart and I put it on the schedule, I had no idea that this subject would be so significant in this particular season, but we’re in a season where toxic talk is super, super easy to engage in, sometimes even without realizing what it is exactly that we’re doing, what kind of poison we’re actually spreading. It’s kind of a perfect storm right now, right? It’s a perfect breeding ground for toxic talk because there’s so many things going on.

And honestly, there’s so many people that we can direct toxic talk at. It’s like, it’s almost not even fair. It’s so easy to be like, we could talk about those jerks who will not wear masks, right? We could talk about those. Or we could talk about those fascists who are making us wear masks and destroying our freedom as Americans, right? We could do that. Or we could talk about those churches that are filled with fear of man, rather than faith in God and so they haven’t reopened yet. Or we can talk about the churches that have reopened, but then they’ve been asked to cease and desist because the way they’re doing the services didn’t use the common sense that God gave him, right? We can do that.

Or don’t even get me started on politicians, right? I mean, you do know it’s election season here in America, right? So, we have all kinds of opportunities to deal with politicians. And I’m really glad that it is political season because here’s the thing, you know, in America, at least, I don’t know where you are in the world, but in America, when people are trying to get elected to public office, they have a long, long, and consistent history of talking about other people they’re running against in such godly, in such positive, in such glowing terms that all we have to do is look to politicians to know exactly how we should be looking to speak to each other, right? And just in case any of you are sarcasm-impaired, everything I just said was sarcastic, okay? The reality is the world teaches us a kind of ways of using our tongues that really has nothing to do with what God intended.

I was talking to somebody the other day and he said, ”Hey, hey, Pastor, don’t you think with everything going on, right, don’t you think with everything going on, the pandemic and political unrest and racism and all that stuff, don’t you think the devil’s working overtime?” And I said, ”No, I think the devil’s on a beach somewhere with a margarita.” Because here’s the thing, I think the devil’s looking at the way that we’re handling what’s going on. He’s looking at the pandemic, he’s looking at the political conflicts. He’s looking at the racism. He’s looking at all this stuff and he’s going, “Holy cow, they’re doing more damage to each other by the way they’re talking to and about each other than I could have ever pulled off so I’m gonna take vacation, okay?”

Now, listen to me, church. As the followers of Jesus, we, you and I, we got an obligation to cut the devil’s vacation short, okay? We got an obligation to get him up off of his butt, off the beach and back into the battle because he’s gonna look at the way that we’re changing the tide of how we talk to each other. And he’s like, “I gotta come up with a new tactic. I come up with a new strategy because they’re not doing my work for me anymore.” We don’t wanna do the devil’s work. We wanna do God’s work, okay? So, here’s what we’re gonna do as Christians, okay?

Number one, we’ve got to recognize and resist this kind of toxic talk in ourselves. That’s the first thing we got to do. All the kinds of toxic talk we’re dealing with in this series, we gotta recognize our tendency to do it. Sometimes that requires that we understand what it is because sometimes we engage in kinds of toxic talk without even realizing exactly what it is that it is. We gotta to recognize it and then we gotta resist it in our own lives, okay? That’s how we kind of stop being part of the problem, but we also wanna be part of the solution, okay? And second thing we’re gonna do is we’ve got to model for the world how God intended us to use our tongues, okay? That’s being part of the solution. We’re gonna start modeling for the world the way that God intended for us to use our tongues.

Now, last week we tackled the toxic talk of gossip, okay? This week, we’re gonna build on that. And we’re gonna go a little bit further actually and we’re gonna talk about what I kind of sometimes think of as sort of gossip on steroids. And I’m talking here about the toxic talk of slander, slander, okay? Here, by the way, is the big difference between slander and gossip. See, gossip doesn’t have to always be untrue. As we saw last week, you can actually gossip by speaking entirely true things. They were just private things that should never have been made public, but that’s not true when it comes to slander. Slander is always untrue. And in fact, let’s just go ahead and define slander real clearly at the outset here. This is what slander is. Slander is spreading misinformation to hurt someone’s reputation. That’s what it is. It’s spreading misinformation to hurt someone’s reputation.

Why don’t you go and grab a Bible, start making your way to the book of Proverbs. We’re going to be in Proverbs, chapter 30, starting in verse 10 today. And that is again, I said last week, this is a little bit of a different series for us. We usually unpack a passage of the Bible, but the book of Proverbs, where we’re in for this series doesn’t really have passages. It just has pearls, okay? Little nuggets of wisdom, soundbites almost. And so we’re gonna bounce around a little bit more in this series than is typical of us, but we wanna make sure that we understand what the book of wisdom from the Bible has to say to us about the way that we use our tongues and it has a lot to say about this thing that we call slander.

Now, Proverbs chapter 30, verse 10 says this. It says, ”Do not slander a servant to their master, or they will curse you, and you will pay for it.” I love that. ”Do not slander a servant to their master, or they will curse you, and you will pay for it.” And that tells us three important things about slander. Number one, it tells us a slander comes from a heart that hopes to hurt, okay? Slander comes from a heart that hopes to hurt. It hopes to do damage, right. There’s no point in talking to a master about their servant, unless you’re plan on cutting that servant down, right? This is designed to cause damage to them, right? It’s not slander, by the way, if you go to your boss and you say, ”Hey, that new girl we hired, she’s amazing. She’s so good at her job. And by the way, I also found out that she’s an incredible mom and she’s an incredible wife.” That’s not slander, okay?

Slander, it’s untrue things that are really…that are designed to do damage. And that’s why it’s going to somebody else, right? It’s because it’s coming from a heart that desires to hurt the person that the slander’s about. But maybe for whatever reason, you don’t feel like you can cause the damage directly, okay? I don’t know why you wanna cause the damage. Maybe you’re jealous. Maybe people do it because they’ve been hurt. Maybe you’ve heard the old phrase, “Hurt people hurt people, right? It’s a good, important truth. Maybe that person has hurt you and so you’re kind of reacting against that. You’re trying to hurt them back, okay? Maybe you see them as competition, right? But for whatever reason, okay, there’s something in your heart that wants to hurt. There’s something in your heart that actually hopes to cause hurt to that person, okay? That’s the first thing to understand about slander.

The second thing understand from this verse here is that slander is a coward’s weapon, okay? Right. That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? It’s not an accusation. An accusation can be made directly to that person and you can kind of go back and forth and figure out whether or not it’s true. But this isn’t an accusation made to the person. This was an accusation made about the person to somebody else in a setting when they don’t have the opportunity to correct you. And the reality is that often, even if what you say is completely false, the damage gets done before that person becomes aware of it and can head it off, okay? So, it’s a coward’s weapon because it’s a sneaky weapon. It’s done behind the person’s back.

And then the third thing we wanna understand about slander from this verse is this, slander has a boomerang effect. Slander has a boomerang effect. It ends up coming back and hurting us as much, maybe even more, than it hurts the person that we are slandering. I think it’s interesting. He says, ”Don’t slander a servant to their master’ or they,” meaning the servant, ‘will curse you,” and that’s kind of a declaration that you’re a liar, okay? And maybe even a little bit beyond that, it’s a public declaration and a call for God to bring punishment against the one that has lied against you, okay? So, it’s a public declaration about the character of the slanderer and it says then, “You will pay for it.” In other words, people will start to think worse about you than they ever did about the person that you slandered, okay? It has this boomerang effect. It comes back at you.

I watch a lot of YouTube, okay? I like to do woodturning. So I’m always watching woodturning videos. I have this broken part of me that really kind of likes seeing people totally biff when they’re skiing or skateboarding or whatever. So I love to watch FailArmy in places like that. But it seems like every time that I watch YouTube these days, every video I watch is preceeded by a political message that is just attacking this one particular… He’s a candidate for a seat on the senate here in the United States and here in Colorado, okay? And here’s the thing about this person. I’m not for this person, I’m not against this person, but it’s interesting that these commercials, these ads, as I listen to them, they’re basically going, “He’s the devil, like he’s the worst person imaginable.” And I was talking to a young woman, who’s gonna be able to vote for the first time ever this election year, so first time ever casting votes, right? And out of curiosity, I said, ”Hey, have you seen his commercials?” ”Yes, I’ve seen his commercial.” I said, ”What do you think?” And she said, ”Honestly, I’m about ready to vote for the guy because I hate the people who are responsible for those ads.”

Yeah. That’s the boomerang effect. And I can’t entirely fault her. That’s not a good way to make voting decisions, okay? And I don’t think that’s how she’s gonna make her voting decisions. But the temptation’s there because the thing is that what they’re saying about this guy is actually telling us more about them maybe than it is even about that guy. It is telling us about their character, right? And it’s an important truth I think we all need to recognize. How we talk about other people tells other people a lot about us. Let me say that again. So important. How we talk about other people tells other people a lot about us. It tells us about our character. It tells us about the kind of people that we are.

Here’s the thing. You know, I have to do a lot of interviews as we hire people. With a church our size, there’s a fair amount of people moving away and trying to find new positions for new ministry opportunities. And one of the questions that I ask a lot of you who’ve been involved in management decisions for hiring, or maybe you’ve been hired, you’ve heard this question, I ask question, “Well, why did you leave your last place?” And the truth of the matter is I’m not all that interested in exactly the reasons they left that last place, especially if it’s a church, but I’m very, very, very interested in how they will talk about the people that they worked for. And if a candidate tells me, “Oh, the senior pastor was a jerk and, you know, the people that I worked for, they did this and that. There was a terrible church and like that,” I’ve never hired one of those people. And I probably never will. Because the thing is anybody who talks smack about somebody else to me will probably talk smack about me to somebody else, and I don’t need that in our culture. That’s a toxic person. And I don’t want that kind of poison in our church culture. How we talk about other people tells other people a lot about us.

And here’s the thing, as followers of Jesus, it’s a bigger deal than that, okay? Listen to me, church, so important. For Christians, how we talk about other people tells other people a lot about Jesus. You with me? How we talk about other people tells other people a lot about Jesus, the one that we claim to follow. And if the way that we talk about other people is inconsistent with who Jesus is, we’re giving people the false picture of Jesus. We’re Christians. The word Christian literally means little Christ. It means people trying to imitate Jesus, okay? One of the things we say here at Mission Hills is that we’re all about helping people become like Jesus and join him on mission. And if the way we talk about other people is inconsistent with who Jesus is, we are not becoming like Jesus, and we’re not giving people a very good picture of who Jesus is. And so as Christians, we’ve got to get a handle on this temptation to slander.

Now, a lot of Christians at this point will go, “Yeah, I get it. Slander’s a big deal, right? You’re spreading misinformation designed to hurt someone’s reputation. That doesn’t reflect well on Jesus. As a Christian, I’m really, really glad that I don’t do that.” Yeah, that’s what I used to think. Kind of the same experience I had last weekend, I had, again, this weekend. As I really began to understand what God was saying about slander, I realized I’m not free of guilt when it comes to this and the chances are, I love you, but the chances are you’re not free of guilt either. We’re all probably guilty of this, okay?

Here’s the deal. Sometimes we think we’re not guilty of slander because we go, “Yeah, it’s misinformation. It’s lies, right? And I’ve never made up a lie designed to tear somebody down.” Fair enough. I think I can probably say the same thing for me. I’ve never made up a lie to tear, sit down somebody, okay? I’ve never made up misinformation to harm somebody, his reputation. But let’s go back to that definition of slander again, okay? Slander is spreading misinformation to hurt someone’s reputation, okay? What that means is that for it to be slander, two things have to be true. Number one, we engage in slander when what we say is unkind; and number two, it’s untrue, okay? We engage the slander whenever what we say is unkind and untrue.

Let’s talk about unkind first, okay? I love this. This is Proverbs chapter 10, verse 18. I don’t actually love it. I just like the fact that it’s speaking to my heart and the Spirit is using this to convict me of some things that I don’t want to be a part of my life. Proverbs 10:18 says this, ”Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.” Whoever conceals hatred.

See, as Christians, as followers of Jesus, we know we’re not supposed to hate anybody, right? But sometimes, the misinformation that we spread about them actually hides the hatred and maybe even hides it from us, okay? Sometimes we can trick ourselves into thinking that our motivation for sharing that information, that misinformation, is actually coming from a good place. And so we’re concealing hatred even from ourselves. And so here’s a really important question. Every time we find ourselves tempted to share something that’s damaging to somebody, here’s what we need to ask. What’s motivating me to spread this? What’s motivating me to spread this? And if the answer is, if we’re really honest, jealousy or anger or frustration, or even dare we say it hatred, what we gotta recognize is that if the thing that’s motivating us to share this information is anything negative towards that person, we are halfway to being slanderers, okay? We’re halfway there. We’re being unkind.

And listen, as I said, we’re surprisingly good at masking our motives, right? You know how we’re all wearing masks right now? And you have to kind of exaggerate, like when I see people that I’m passing by and I want them…let them know that I’m smiling, I have to exaggerate a lot, right, because they can’t see my face because masks hide what’s really going on, right? And they’re easy to hide behind. And sometimes we have some things that we hide behind. We have some masks that we hide behind so that we conceal that negative stuff that we feel towards other people. And we conceal it sometimes even from ourselves, right? But we know we’re not allowed to hate somebody. And so we, as Christians, go, “I don’t hate that person. I just hate what they stand for. I don’t hate that person. I just have no respect for them. I don’t hate that person. I’m just concerned about what’s going to happen to all the people that they have influence over, right?” And maybe those are legitimate motives in there, but sometimes as the Proverb says, the information that we’re spreading, especially the misinformation that we spread, it’s really designed to conceal what is, in fact, hatred, which, as followers of Jesus, is not something we can allow to fester in our hearts, okay?

So, if we’re unkind, if our reason for sharing is unkind, we’re halfway to being slanderers. But the other half, of course, is that it’s gotta be untrue. You gotta have both things together for it to be slander. It’s important, right? If it’s unkind, but true, that’s not slander, okay? And now, it might be gossip, as we talked about last week. It might be judgementalism. It might be a critical spirit. Those aren’t good things. We’re gonna tackle those in a couple of weeks, okay? But if it’s true, but unkind, it’s not slander. And if it’s untrue, but kind, that’s not slander. That’s called flattery, by the way, which is another kind of toxic talk. Reza is gonna bring us a teaching on that next weekend. It’s gonna be awesome. I cannot wait to hear it. That’s one of those that we can easily kind of find ourselves slipping into, but it’s toxic in the way that all these others are, okay?

To be slander though it’s gotta be untrue and unkind, okay? Let’s talk about untrue. Now, I’m gonna ask you to go back for a moment in your heads and remember how we defined slander, okay? We defined slander as spreading misinformation to hurt someone’s reputation. And I want you to notice that I was very deliberate about the word that I chose there. I use the word misinformation. I did not use the word lie. I didn’t use the word fabrication, that would have worked too, spreading fabrication to ruin someone’s reputation. That’s got a nice rhythm to it, but I didn’t use that word. And you know why? Because the word lie is too black and white. The word lie gets us feeling like we’re off the hook because we didn’t make up something. We didn’t fabricate something, but here’s the important truth, okay? And this is an unfortunate reality, but we’re going to have to come to grips with it, church, okay? We can spread malicious misinformation without actually telling a lie. You know that? We can. We can spread malicious information without actually telling a lie.

How on earth could we do that? Well, let me give you two ways. Number one, we can slander by spreading information that we didn’t verify. Ooh, anybody feeling uncomfortable yet? I am. Because you know what happens is somebody tells us something about somebody and maybe it’s an individual, maybe it’s an organization. Maybe it’s a church. Maybe it’s a political movement, whatever it is, somebody tells us something. And honestly, we like it. We’re like, ”Yeah, that man, absolutely. That’s exactly what I already thought about those people. Perfect. This proves what I already believed.” And so we don’t want to verify it, right?

But here’s the thing. When we spread information without verifying that it’s true, we’re actually spreading misinformation. And why are we spreading it about those people that we already felt kind of negatively about? So that other people will feel negatively about them, right? So, what are we doing? We’re ending up spreading misinformation designed to hurt their reputation. That’s slander, all because we didn’t bother to verify. Man, this happens all the time right now. There’s crazy stuff going on out there. Like I don’t know if you spend any time online, but there’s an insane number of bizarre rumors going out around the world. It’s crazy stuff.

I was interacting with someone very recently that was interacting with somebody that was kind of buying into this theory that, you know, different political figures. And it’s interesting, you know, it varies from source to source. Maybe it’s President Trump, maybe it’s the Democrats, maybe it’s the Republicans, maybe it’s the Illuminati or one of these other kind of shadow organizations. But basically, you know, they’re saying that the COVID thing was a creation… Well, actually some of them are saying it’s not even a real thing, which is crazy because how on earth do you get the entire planet to cooperate in this? And I’ve got friends all over the world who have had the coronavirus or who are administering in churches where many of their members have it. This is a real thing. You just can’t perpetrate a deception like that on the entire world. So it’s a real thing. And some people go, ”Okay, yeah, it’s a real thing. But it was either made up or invented in the lab or whatever by certain people so that we would all take the vaccine, which is gonna carry this microchip, which Bill Gates designed or whoever, whatever, so that they can track us. It’s the mark of the beast.”

So, I was interacting with somebody who was sharing that, and as I was talking to him, they were saying, yeah, this person believes that COVID itself stands for, check this out, certificate of vaccine identification. So, they even baked it into the name of the thing, right? Now, by the way, that’s not what it. It does not stand for certificate of vaccine identification. COVID stands for coronavirus disease, but there’s this rumor going out, out there from people and there’s videos. I’ve seen them. They’re videos that are explaining how it got made in the lab so that they could do these microchips into people and it’s the one world order. It’s the Illuminati, you know, it’s the end times and all that stuff.

And the thing is that the Christians, and sometimes well-meaning Christians that I know, they’re forwarding that stuff on. They’re like, “I can’t believe this. This video came in, this is craziness,” send it out. And I’m like, ”Hey, did you bother to check out anything before you sent it out?” I was talking to someone just this past week who shared a video from a guy who was in a church service. And he was claiming to have created the chip that was gonna go in the vaccine for COVID. And they were sending this video around. And I watched about 20 seconds of the video, and then I spent about 5 seconds on Google, found out that that guy recorded that video about 30 years ago, which by the way, way before COVID, okay, and was obvious because everybody in the video was wearing clothes from like the ’80s, ’90s. I spent about five seconds and I found out that the video had been recorded 30 years ago. Clearly, that couldn’t have anything to do with COVID. And that the guy who recorded the video later admitted and repented of having lied about the whole thing. But Christians were forwarding this thing. And when it was attached to, you know, whether it’s the WHO or the CDC or the Republicans or the Democrats or this politician, when it’s attached to those people, it’s out there designed to hurt their reputation, but it is misinformation. And listen, if you forward information without verification, you’re guilty of slander. You’re guilty of slander, okay?

Here’s an important truth. Investigate before you propagate. Okay, Church, can we do that? Investigate before you propagate because you can be guilty of slander for spreading information you didn’t verify. By the way, if you wanna jump back with me to Proverbs 10:18, again, it says, ”Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.” Doesn’t say invents slander, doesn’t say makes up slander. It says, spreads it. The Hebrew word there, “yatsa.” Some of you are gonna love that. You’re gonna love this. Yatsa in Hebrew, you know what that means? It means to spread. It just means to, you know, spread it around.

I got a question, it’s gonna be gross. And I’m kind of sorry for even asking it, but I’m gonna do it anyway. If somebody smears poop on you and you’re like, ”What the heck are you doing? Why are you smearing that stuff on me?” And they go, ”It’s okay. It’s not mine.” Do you feel better? No? Yeah. Where it came from is not the important thing. The fact that it didn’t come from you, that’s not the most important thing. Investigate before you propagate, okay?

Now there’s another reason why we can actually spread malicious information without actually telling a lie, and it’s this, is that we can slander by using truth to lead someone to a false conclusion, okay? We can tell true things, but we can take them out of context, or we can exaggerate them a little bit or just not give enough other information so that it leads somebody to a conclusion about the person we’re talking about that’s not true. But we can go, “But what I said was true. So I can’t be guilty of slander, right?” Wrong.

There’s an old story. It’s a story, it’s probably back in the 1800s or maybe even before that. There is a story of a first mate in a shipping company, in a trading company, he was kind of rising fast through the ranks. He’d been assigned to one of the, you know, the main flagships for this merchant company. And the captain didn’t really like him because the captain was a little nervous about how fast he was rising through the ranks. And one night, the first mate made a huge mistake. The first mate got drunk, okay? Drank a little too much, got drunk, woke up the next morning, immediately realized that he’d done wrong. He went to the captain and he said he was sorry. He said, ”That should never have happened. It’s unexcusable. I promise you it will not happen again.” And the captain asked him a question. The captain said, ”Has it ever happened before?”

And the young man, wanting to be completely honest, said, ”Yes, sir. It has. One time, seven years ago, I drank too much. Hasn’t been since then, but yes, one time, seven years ago.” And the captain dismissed him, and he wrote in the log book, “Captain’s note.” And usually, the first mate was filling out the log book. But the captain made a special captain’s note that day. He said, ”First mate was drunk again last night.” The first mate, the next night, was filling out the log book, and he came across the captain’s entry and he went to the captain and he said, ”You gotta get rid of that. That’s going to ruin my career. It’s not fair.” The captain said, ”There’s nothing in there that’s not true. You were drunk again.” The first mate took the book and he wrote, “Praise God, today, the captain was sober.”

You know, you can slander somebody. You can spread misinformation. You can spread malicious misinformation without telling a lie. Just because what you tell is carefully parceled out truth so that you lead somebody to a wrong conclusion. It happens all the time in those ads that I was mentioning earlier, that politician and the commercials are telling me he’s the devil. One of the things that gets said in those is that he’s an ethics violator and then they list a long list of ethics violations. I think there’s about six of them. I did a little bit of research and I found that he was investigated for those six ethical violations, and two of them he was found guilty of. He was. He is, in fact, an ethics violator. The other four, the ethics committee determined he had not actually violated any ethics, but they’re listed in that commercial, at least they were in an earlier version of it. I don’t know about now. They’ve probably been called on it. But the point is, he’s an ethics violate.

Here’s the six things he’s done. Well, four of those things he did, but they determined they weren’t ethics violations. But because they said he’s an ethics violator, and then they got those two and then these other four, they’re all together, you know, like it’s just this massive thing, like this is all this guy does. And again, please hear me. I’m not for this guy. I’m not against him, but I’m very, very against that kind of talk. And I’m deeply, deeply concerned that Christians recognize this and resist it in ourselves. But the fact of the matter is that we often engage in that for the reasons we’ve talked about. And sometimes, we even excuse ourselves for it. I’ve done it. I’m gonna be perfectly honest with you. I have done it. I’ve slandered people. I’ve done it recently.

Confession time. There’s a church kind of in the news these days, because honestly, they’ve got some kind of interesting beliefs and some interesting practices, and I’m not in agreement with their theology. I’m not in agreement with a number of their practices. And I heard a story about them. I heard that with all this racism stuff that was going on, that they used a wizard staff in a church service to cast out the demon of racism from America. And I went, ”Oh my gosh, it’s exactly the kind of thing I expect from those people.” And I told that story to a couple other people, not a lot, a couple of other people. And I’m gonna confess to you, I didn’t bother to verify it. I did not bother to verify it. I shared that with other people, which is really designed to hurt their reputation as a church, and I did it without verification.

I finally did go back and verify it, and it’s true actually. It did actually happen. But when I saw the context for it, I realized that I was misrepresenting it, which again, partly was because I didn’t bother investigating in the first place. They were kind of like making a little bit of a spoof of, you know, ”The Lord of the Rings” and Gandalf, you know, casting up the Balrog, you know, “You shall not pass,” that kind of a thing. And they were kind of making out like racism was this horrible thing. And like, listen, I wouldn’t have done it that way. I’m not gonna say that it was the best way. I’m not gonna say that it was necessarily a wrong way. When I understood the context is like, yeah, well, I presented this in a way that led people to a conclusion about them that really was much worse than the actual events themselves.

And I want you to hear me. I recognize that for what it was, that was slander. And I’ve gone on my knees. I’ve repented of it. I’ve asked for forgiveness of it and I’m correcting it. But the reality is if I can do it, you can do it, okay? But we can’t afford to do it because listen, how we talk about other people tells other people a lot about us and as followers of Jesus, how we talk about other people tells other people a lot about Jesus. But there’s a positive side to removing a slander from our hearts, much more powerful motivation I think for dealing with this toxic talk in ourselves.

This is Psalm 15, Psalm of David, King David. He writes this, ”Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?” In other words, God who can be with you? Who could have your presence moment by moment, day in and day out? It says, ”The one whose walk is blameless. The one who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart, whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor and casts no slur on others,” which is another way of talking about slander.

Why do I wanna get rid of slander from my heart? Because apparently, our refusal the practice slander invites the presence of God in our lives. I don’t know about you, but I need the presence of God in my life a whole lot more than I need to be tearing down other people because I don’t agree with what they stand for or what they teach or what they believe. I need the presence of God more than I need anything else. And apparently, our refusal to participate in slander invites God’s presence into our lives. Don’t you want that?

Well, apparently, the way that we use our tongue has an impact on that. So, let me just ask you some questions to wrestle with. Number one, have I been guilty of spreading misinformation? Ask yourself that question honestly. When I asked it, I had to recognize I’ve done it. Maybe you did it intentionally. Maybe you did it mis-intentionally, okay? But if it’s misinformation and especially are uttered with an unkind motivation, that’s slander. Have you been guilty of spreading misinformation? If you recognize it, first thing you wanna do is you wanna acknowledge it to God, call it what it is. Call it sin, ask for forgiveness.

Another question you may wanna wrestle with is this, is this a regular temptation for me? Is this something you struggle with regularly? And if, through the help of the Holy Spirit kind of unveiling those realities of our lives that we sometimes don’t like to look at it, if you realize that this is actually something I struggle with on a regular basis, you’re gonna wanna ask the question why is that? What is it in me that causes me to slander others? And ask for strength through the power of the Holy Spirit, not just to identify those things, but to begin rooting them up out of your life. Which leads me to the third question, what am I gonna do about it? If slander is a regular temptation for you or even if it’s an irregular one, what are you going to do about it?

The truth of the matter is like every other kind of toxic talk we’re dealing with in this series, you can’t actually fix the problem. You can’t change the way that your tongue naturally tends to do its business. Only the Holy Spirit in you. If you’re a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is in you. He’s transforming you from the inside out, including your tongue. Only he can do that, but we are called to cooperate with him.

And so that’s what this question is about. What am I gonna do about it? Maybe I’m gonna confess it to somebody else. I’m gonna ask somebody to come alongside me and then call me out when they see me doing it on Facebook or on Twitter or whatever. Maybe I’m just gonna spend a considerable amount of time praying. Maybe I’m gonna make it a new policy that I just don’t say negative things until I can get a handle on what the motivation is, right? Because you gotta have both of those things for slander. It’s gotta be untrue, but it’s also gotta be unkind.

So maybe you just don’t say anything negative until you get a handle on this motivation issue. But whatever it is that God might be calling you to do, I encourage you to do it. Because how we talk about others, how we speak about others has the potential either to push away the presence of God or, as Psalm 15 tells us, to actually invite the presence of God moment by moment, day by day. And we need that. We need it now more than ever. Would you pray with me?

God, on behalf of all the followers of Jesus, we just confess to you that we have not always used our tongues the way they were intended. We confess that, we ask for your forgiveness. And specifically, we confess the sin of slander. We ask that you not just forgive it, Lord, but you’d root it out by the power of your Holy Spirit so that what comes out of our mouths, its only truth driven by kindness. We say that so that we might extend your influence around the world, so that we might not present a bad picture of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Lord, also selfishly, so that we can invite your presence moment by moment and day by day. We don’t wanna drive you away by the way we talk about those other human beings that have been made as your image.

Lord, as we come into election season, so many opportunities to slander, and maybe we turn that around Lord and we ask that you would allow us to see all of the opportunities for slander in this season, whether it’s election or pandemic or school’s opening and frustration about all those things and racism or whatever it is, instead of seeing those as opportunities to slander, Lord, would you teach us to see them as opportunities to speak about and to other human beings in a way that glorifies you and draws people to you.

Speaking about drawing people to you, if you’re a follower of Jesus right now, would you just begin praying for all the people around the world who are watching this right now, listening to this right now, in whatever setting they’re in, who don’t have a relationship with God. And maybe that’s you. And honestly, I know for some of you, the reason you don’t have a relationship with God, maybe the reason that Jesus has not been a part of your life is because you’ve watched the way that Christians have talked about other people. And you said, “Well, that’s no different than the rest of the world,” and you long to see something different. Let me speak to you something different.

Jesus himself was slandered. People said horrible things about Jesus. They even said he was from the devil himself. They said that he frequented prostitutes just because he loved prostitutes and didn’t cast them away and think of them unworthy of being a part of his ministry. But they spoke the truth, yeah, he spent some time with prostitutes, and they twisted it and leading people to a false conclusion. They did horrible things like that to him. And yet, after he’d been arrested and beaten and nailed to the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they’re doing.” That’s Jesus. He’s been slandered, but he continues to love and to forgive. And you need to understand that the reason that he allowed that to happen, the reason he allowed himself to go to the cross was because of his love for you. Jesus went to the cross so that he could pay for our sins. His death could buy us life by his forgiveness for sin.

Whatever that sin is, whatever form it’s taken in your life, we’ve all sinned. We’ve all fallen short, but Jesus died so that we might be forgiven of our sin because of his love for us. Three days later, he rose from the dead to prove that he had done it, that he had salvation, that he had forgiveness, that he had freedom and that he had a relationship with God himself to give to those of us who had put our trust in him. And if you’ve never done that, if you’ve never put your trust in Jesus, I’m gonna ask you right now to set aside every reason that you might have hesitated to commit yourself to following Jesus and just speak from the heart right now to Jesus if you’re ready, if you’re ready to follow him. Here’s what you’re gonna say wherever you are. This is what matters. Just have this conversation with Jesus:

Jesus, I’ve definitely done wrong, and I’m sorry. Thank you for dying for my sins. Thank you for enduring slander for my sake. I believe that you rose from the dead and I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, salvation, freedom from sin and death and darkness and eternal life with God. So, Lord, right now, I’m just setting aside all the things that have kept me from committing my life to you, and I’m saying yes to you. Jesus, I give my life to you. I’m gonna follow you and you alone for now and forever. Amen.”

Are you Human?:*