My pastor preached on slander this morning from James 4:11-12. More accurately, he preached against slander from James 4:11-12. “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. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”
There are a few obvious ways to apply this passage (I don’t mean that these ways to apply James 4:11-12 are easy or often-followed, but at least they’re obvious). However, most of the applications are not obvious. They demand deep heart-excavation followed by tenacious resolution and violent self-denial. These are the applications that we usually ignore, choosing instead to pursue status quo application. Status quo is far easier. It leaves most of our flesh unmortified, and we love our unmortified flesh.
Over the past few years, God has convicted me of two small yet very deep areas in which I need to fight my slanderous heart.
First, I have to fight against imbibing slander in the news. My deceitful heart is exposed by the way that I am tempted to click on the news headlines that scream controversy, malice, and defamation. Ask yourself why you’re so prone to read “news” that reports of people or organizations or companies disparaging each other. I would suggest that it’s because we love to be exalted (or at least feel exalted), and one way to feel exalted is to look on the faults of others, whether those “faults” be real, perceived, or simply false. Therefore, we love to slander, and we love to hear slander. It subtly excuses our own sins and failings. But is it biblical to read slander just because it’s called “news”? Do not be deceived: reading slanderous news headlines on DrudgeReport is no better than entertaining back-stabbing gossip from a co-worker or a fellow church member. The fact that you don’t personally know the person being slandered in the article doesn’t make you innocent. Be careful where you click. Be careful why you click. Be vigilant in watching your heart, which is the source of all clicking and slandering and murder.
Second, I have to fight against nameless slander. One day a few years ago, I realized that I had trained myself to vent my frustrations about people by talking about them namelessly. This, too, came from a slanderous heart. “I won’t tell you the person’s name, but I was talking to someone today and they said… Can you believe that?” I probably thought that I was more spiritual because I said “they,” thereby keeping the gender ambiguous, too. The truth, though, was that I was finding a way to exalt myself by speaking negatively of others, all the while congratulating myself that I wasn’t technically slandering. But my heart was just as hateful, murderous, and conceited as when I slandered someone by name. And when I stand before the righteous Judge of all the earth on the last day, all self-justifying “technicalities” will be stripped away and I will be naked before the burning eye of the Lamb.
The Bible pierces deep. These are just two areas in which God has taught me to obey His admonitions to not slander. There are many more. Many more. May God enable us to root out self-seeking and bitterness and malice in our hearts at every level, because true holiness, like the holiness of Jesus, is pervasive.