“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17–21 ESV)
I’ve been slandered, what should I do?
Slander is verbal wrong that besmirches your character. These wrongs are incredibly painful. As a longtime leader, I know this sting well. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Is that true? No. People say lots of things but mostly people are cowards and say things behind our backs they would never say to our face. Whispers. Insinuations. Lies. Gossip. Backstabbing.
Sometimes they go public and the power of social media gives slander steroids. Have you ever been slandered on social media? How does that feel? We all experience this on one level or another. What does unconditional kindness look like in the face of slander?
It is so easy to reply in kind. Let’s face it, we all have qualities worthy of slander and the better we know each other, the more ammo we have. This is why family gossip is the easiest; we know each other’s dirty laundry. When a family member pretends to have the moral high ground to criticize another family member, boom! You said that about me, let’s talk about how you can’t keep a job, and don’t make me bring up how much you drank at the family reunion….
Here is where Jesus gives a powerful example.
“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)
Jesus is the only one with the moral high ground to verbally assess anyone. In the famous story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus writes in the sand. Eventually all the woman’s accusers leave. It is speculated he wrote in the sand the sins of the Pharisees. Imagine him writing the names of women they had slept with. That would empty the room quickly. We don’t know. His response to the woman is kindness: Go and sin no more.
“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return” (1 Peter 2:23). Could he? Doesn’t Jesus know the secret sins of the human heart? Yes. What did he do? He entrusted himself to his heavenly Father. He cared more what God thought of him than what man thought of him.
When people criticize us, we should pause and ask, what is true here? One thing about criticism, it’s always sincere. Criticism is free counseling. What is true here? Sometimes slander should lead us to find the truth in it and seek to reconcile with the other over it. Is there even 1% of this that is true? Humble yourself, go to them, and seek the 1% right. Don’t use it as pretext to go off on their hypocrisy or how wrong they are with the 99%. Make the 1% right.
But in the end, what people say doesn’t matter. It’s what God thinks that matters. That may be comforting, but it should mostly be terrifying. God knows us far better than our harshest critic.
But there is comfort as well when we are wrongly accused. Entrust yourself to God’s opinion. Cry out to him that your name would be cleared. Read the Psalms which echo this so often. Entrust yourself to God. And let the character of your life over time silence the slander. Time tends to reveal things. Nobody’s perfect, but if your character is consistently toward the things of God, your testimony will be like Teflon. Nothing sticks. Winning a war means losing some battles along the way. We win the war by not returning evil and taking a posture of peace even with those who treat us badly.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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