There are times when I’m ashamed to be called a Christian. Some would interpret that statement by making assumptions about my “lack of faith,” but it’s not that. I’m ashamed to be called a Christian when others proclaiming to be Christians act in ways that counter the work of Christ on the cross.
Like when a pastor makes a point of tithing—at the expense of someone to whom he could have shown love and generosity. Or when a leader makes a judgment on the president he has no place making. Or the countless other incidents when Christians open their mouths … and we’d rather they didn’t.
Often they are speaking from their moral anchor, which motivates them to step up onto their soapbox. But just because it’s “right”—and often it’s not—doesn’t mean it needs to be said out loud. And when a moral judgment call is made without grace, it’s not truth—it’s slander.
Slander, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means “to defame another through the use of false statements.” It is a poisonous and divisive weapon that Christ never authorized us to use, no matter the circumstance.
Yet many Christians use speculation and slander under the guise of truth-telling—which is, of course, not only justified but encouraged in the Bible.
While in my favorite coffee shop one day with a friend, we were talking about faith, love and politics (you know, the usual!). Yet in the midst of the conversation, he began making assumptions about a certain friend of ours—speculating that he is gay and how, consequently, he is going to hell.
All of a sudden, I was embarrassed to be sitting with my friend who honestly believed, on a hunch, that our mutual friend was not only gay but going to hell for it.
I was astonished by this friend’s incredibly hateful words. I was also surprised that this wasn’t the only slanderous comment I’d heard this week. In fact, on every occasion throughout the week, the slanderous comments I’d heard came from the mouths of Christians. And all of them, including my friend, believed they were justified by Scripture to say the things they said.
I remembered a moment that had occurred in this very same coffee shop a year ago. A friend of mine told me he couldn’t become a Christian. When I asked him why not, he replied, “Because I’m gay.”
Slander inadvertently closes the door on Christianity. To non-Christians, it forms the idea that unless you conform to the level of judgmental piety we hold over you, you cannot receive the saving power of Christ. Slander has depreciated the Church and has detracted it from its mission of saving the lost, just as Christ set out to do (Luke 19:10).
What is tragically wrong with our society is that many people want to justify those who slander homosexuals, abortionists and even our nation’s leader by drawing on the Word. They believe they are correct in doing so. But this is a tragic flaw only made visible upon a life in submission to the Word. The Word of God does not treat the subject of slander so kindly. In fact, Scripture is pretty clear that we are never to speak of others in this way.
Ephesians 4:29-31 speaks to this: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up.” In what way does your talk build others up?
And then, it is no coincidence that the next verse talks about grieving the Holy Spirit. We literally grieve the Holy Spirit inside of us when we talk of others without love and grace.
Think about it like this. In Ephesians 3:16-17, Paul lays out an appeal to be sanctified because we have the Spirit inside of us. This means that the power of the Spirit within us is to be strengthened—not grieved! The work of Christ is to be matured within us. In Ephesians 4:15, love is shown as a maturing and measuring factor for us as a community, growing up into Christ. Is our community defined by love when we make statements that defame others? Do we profit from it as a community?
When we slander, we make a mockery of the truth of Scripture we proclaim. It does not make logical sense to defame and slander others with an arsenal of Christian conviction when Scripture clearly renounces this.
We must bow down, in humble submission to God’s Word, and set aside corrupting talk. Like Ephesians 4:15 says, we must speak the truth in love. This is a powerful statement. It is not enough to speak the truth alone. It matters just as much how we speak it—in love. And if you can’t say it in love, it’s best not to say it at all.
Imagine how radically different our society would be if Christians would clothe themselves in love rather than the bigotry and hate the media loves to capitalize on. Imagine if we could erase the reputation of Christian soapboxes and become known for our love and co-work with Christ’s redemption in His world.
Neal Samudre is the creator of JesusHacks.com and is the author of Jesus Workforce, a guide to help people build better habits and grow as leaders in the workplace. Subscribe to his free course to learn how you can live like Jesus in a busy life.