Jerry Corbaley blogs at Think the Thoughts.
Part One should be read before Part Two, or you could find this a little too salty.
It is the Bible-believing Christian’s birthright to communicate with loving words of grace. It is within God’s ideal will for the Christian’s words to be patient, kind, modest, humble, polite, and with a clear attitude that a holy relationship is desired with those who receive such words.
We say and write a great many things. We may be aware of the human consequences that our words ignite. Communication itself is an avenue for sin, and faithfulness to what God has said should result in a humble attitude on our part.
“If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body”. And, “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue (keyboard) is a fire, a world of unrighteousness”. James 3:2, 5, 6
In addition to the visible human consequences of the sins of communication are the spiritual consequences of that sin. Despising the birthright of Loving Words of Grace cannot be thoughtfully done without also despising the time when we must account for what we have said.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak (write), for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36, 37
Since, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34), it would be well worth our time to consider the way we communicate. If we are not living as we have been called to live, then we are living something less than our birthright. Since “Loving Words of Grace” will not be found by a concordance search, what terms could we use to learn about this topic?
Depending on the English version of the Bible that you use, the warnings against sinful words are related to the terms gossip, slander, railing, and reviling. Slander, railing and reviling are mostly synonymous (mean mostly the same thing). A good guide for learning about the way these terms are translated can be found in the SBC Life article.
I will address gossip and slander. In using the word slander, it should be noted that you should discover God’s definition from the Bible, and not from the American legal community. Their usage of slander and libel (written slander) are inadequate for discerning God’s intent. It ought not be surprising that American justice is not the final justice, and the American Supreme Court is not the final supreme court.
As used in the Bible, slander is any communication that disparages the reputation of another and is not a part of Biblical discipline exercised through the usage of loving words of grace.
To be as blunt as possible without being rude; slander is using words to drag down someone else without God telling you to do so.
Gossip (often, literally ‘whispering’) is slander where the audience is limited. The person gossiping doesn’t want the ‘dragging down’ of another to go beyond the people the gossiper has chosen. Gossip is still an exercise in slander. When the person gossiping no longer cares who knows what they have to say, it is still slander, not honesty.
How bad is gossip and slander? If we care about being holy, about being like Jesus in this world, then we should take to heart the warnings and instruction that God has given us.
Slander is terrible, it is evil. I have sinned that way. I repent of it. The more clearly I see what slander is, and what it does, the more I reject it and the more I regret the times that I have sought (intentionally or not!) to drag down the reputation of another.
So what does the Bible have to say about how bad slander is? Note the terrible sins that God’s word lists along with slander. The following passages are far less than exhaustive.
Murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness. Matthew 15:19
Evil, murder, deceit, maliciousness, haters of God, insolent, haughty, faithless, ruthless. Romans 1:29, 30
Sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, drunkenness, swindling. 1 Corinthians 5:11
Again, it is a good thing to meditate on what overflows from the abundance of our hearts, because it defines the nature of our heart. I have the chance to seek repentance when I realize I am sinning. I take no comfort in knowing that my slanderous words are mild as compared to the slanderous words of Americans in general.
It is always hopeful to realize that my sins can be forgiven through my whole-hearted faith in Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. This hope is for everyone who follows Him.
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers (slanderers), nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you (like me). But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
“Washed, sanctified, justified”. That is our hope.
If you are born of God, embrace your birthright and use loving words of grace.