Responding to Slander
Q. Jesus said that persecution and slander would follow those who follow His Way. But what is the best response? Should we ignore slander or actively refute it? Won't people simply ignore it?
A. Lies and slander, no matter how incredible and preposterous, are as effective as poison. That is why Satan uses it so much. If it were ineffective, do you think he would bother? We can expect, in the future, books to be written about us containing libellous slander. We have already had libellous letters circulated about us. Much is retained in the hearts of the readers of such books and letters. At the very least such material succeeds in discrediting an organisation and has the power to ruin the reputation of a fellowship. You would not believe some of the things that have been said about us!
It would be na´ve not to expect continuing slander now and in the future. The dishonest will believe what they want to and the honest search out the truth for themselves. False, sensationalistic reports spread like wildfire in unredeemed societies, fuelled by unprincipled journalism. Most people aren't bothered about checking up the facts for themselves -- they would rather have someone "in authority" just "tell" them the "facts". A New Covenant Christian tenet is that people go to the source of a matter and never rely on second-hand reports. As a Mormon once wisely asked me: "If you wanted to know about Catholic Church beliefs, would you go to a Protestant?" My answer, I recall at the time, was to (a) Get the Catholic position first; (2) Get the position of honourable Protestants and others (i.e. those who were critical in a respectful and honest way, and not "gossippers" and those who revel in malicious slander); and finally, (3) make my own independent study and finally take the matter to God. I would hope that every honest person would seeker after truth would make a similar approach to us and anybody else, an individual or a Church.
We have written on this subject before. We have been called a "sect" not because we are "sectarian" but because it is a word of abuse commonly levelled against those who aren't "mainstream" or "orthodox" as society defines it at any particular point in time. Never forget that the same accusation was levelled against the first Christians: "..I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect" (Ac.24:14, NIV). Well, we as New Covenant Christians also worship "the God of our [fellow-Christian] fathers" yet they call us a "sect". The same insult was thrown at the first Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals, and every other "non-conformist" group.
The "mud-slingers" have many motives, but the most common ones are fear and jealousy. Otherwise why would so many people attack so few? What threat can a handful of people possibly be? We need not suppose that the irrationality of slanderers is necessarily all a reflection of their "depraved condition" for they are, for the most part, quite "ordinary" and "respectable" people. The only satisfactory answer that I have ever found that there are invisible powers which lie behind such malice (Eph.6:12).
Opposition will most likely mount in proportion to our success. Those who become active witnesses in the New Covenant Church must, therefore, expect to stir up many hornets' nests. It is the price one pays for becoming a light-bearer. Satan does not care how many Christians there are in the world, or how many churches; names like "Christian" or "Church" do not bother him in the least. What bothers him is when his kingdom of darkness is disturbed by having a bright light shone on it. It is only when his sovereignty over individuals and society is challenged that he stirs up vigorous opposition. Quiet, conforming churches are no bother to him but rather help maintain his system.
Should we respond to malicious slander? I do not believe so because such activity is not productive but I would not dogmatically say that we should never respond. The important thing is how we respond. If your response is anger and reflexive self-defence then we are not on the correct path. Our response should be gentle, firm, respectful, and in defence of the truth and not of ourselves as persons. We should ideally "have a good reputation with outsiders" (1 Tim.3:7, NIV) which means not so much presenting a "good image" but by being genuinely and visibly honourable in our intercourse with men.
What about correcting misconceptions about the Gospel? We have the right, and the duty, to correct misrepresentations about Jesus and His teaching. If someone says we are cannibals because of the Lord's Supper (as the first Christians were accused) then we must naturally correct that misconception. We should correct any doctrinal misrepresentations about ourselves and anyone else. In other words, we should defend the righteousness of the righteous whoever they are and whatever they may believe in, even if it means promoting the righteousness of our enemies where they are righteous. In short, we are to avoid sectarianism!
New Covenant Christians will defend correct doctrine and morality whoever espouses it, even if such persons have been bitterly attacking us. We must never fall into the trap of the wicked who cry "devil" even when they see goodness with their naked eyes.
It is impossible to give an absolute guideline as to how we should respond to false accusation. The most important thing is that we behave in a graceful manner that reflects the fruits of the Holy Spirit and not the spontaneous anger that sometimes arises out of a sense of indignation, however seemingly justified. We must demonstrate that Jesus makes a difference in our lives and that we aren't simply going to follow the unredeemed crowd.
Recently my reputation was horribly slandered in the workplace by persons who had sworn to destroy me. Because those I work with know me quite well they could immediately see that those concerned were simply "out to get blood". If our enemies succeeded in any way it was in leaving a "sour taste" in the mouths of all concerned. Slander, even if it is utterly false, does poison. And the degree it poisons is in the proportion to how well you are known or not known. Those who are poisoned the worst are those whom you don't know at all.
One of the best illustrations I can give of this "poisoning" is the fear and suspicion Jews feel about the Gospel because of centuries of false "Christianity". Converts amongst Jews are few though they are increasing as better Bible translations become available and as Christians (only a few, alas) admit the essential "Jewishness" of the Gospel. The relationship between Jews and "Christians" has been poisoned by centuries of anti-Semitism fuelled by bad Bible translations and malicious men.
Our best -- and ultimately, only -- defence against slander is the presence of God's Holy Spirit in us, for it is He who "..teache(s us) at the time what (we) should say (and do)" (Jn.12:12, NIV). Remember, that in defending ourselves we are never going to convince those who don't want to know the truth -- those, like one who said to us, "I will fight this to my dying breath" -- but we can, with God's help, silence and put to shame those who abuse the Name of God, and, most importantly, win for Christ those who are honest in heart.
This page was created on 16 October 1997
Last updated on 17 December 2007
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