March 26, 2019
But now you must put them all away…slander...
Being children of God turned around the lives of the Colossian Christians in an amazing way: Their new-found faith in Jesus spurred their desire to change those deep-seated behavioral patterns which contradicted God’s will. Through his letter of loving encouragement and honest criticism, Paul tried to help the Colossians grow in their faith and become more and more Christ-like.
In order to explain his thoughts to his readers, Paul decided to focus on down-to-earth aspects of the Christian life where God’s transformational work would be needed most.
For this reason, Paul made a whole list of vices which Christian believers are meant to put off. Interestingly, these vices are not physical actions but rather come out of our mouths. Slander is one of them. No wonder, the Bible warns us repeatedly of the destructive force of the tongue.
What exactly is slander and why are we to refrain from it? The dictionary defines slander as “an untrue, malicious statement intending to damage or destroy another person.” That sounds very much like the idea behind one of today’s biggest buzzwords: “Fake truth!”
The Old Testament is very clear about the topic of slander: God loves truthfulness and he warns us in the 9th commandment: Do not give false testimony against your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16) Solomon agrees: Whoever utters slander is a fool. (Proverbs 10:18) In the New Testament, Paul condemns slander not only in his letter to the Colossians but also when he writes to the Ephesians (4:31) and Peter tells us to put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. (1 Peter 2:1)
How then does this apply to our lives? Isn’t slander something that we Christians should have put far behind us? Maybe this is not really the case since Paul speaks about it in several of his letters and maybe this is as much a problem for Christians today, as it was for the Colossian Christians almost 2000 years ago!
As I was contemplating Paul’s warning, I had to admit that slander can sneak into our lives, almost unnoticed. As we gossip with each other or pass on unhealthy secrets, we often transgress onto the slippery slope of slander. Sometimes we are all too quick to believe others when they tell us juicy things about others behind their backs. Yes, we may not be culpable of scheming big-style to destroy another person; however, if we are honest with ourselves, it may happen in a sentence which we lightly say to someone else or when we lend a listening ear to others spreading “interesting news.”
Let’s be watchful in our daily conversations with others and remember Paul’s instruction: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)