Slander’s Silent Poison: The Danger of Character Assassination

Category: Video

Have you read about the assassination attempt mentioned in the Book of Acts? It’s not an action that either of us would undertake against another, is it?

The assassination attempt described involved the use of poison, but it speaks about poison metaphorically. And this poison was NOT injected through a needle, or something hidden put in their drink, but through words that were spoken.

Paul said, “the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.”

The Jews were so hateful of Christ that they not only rejected him themselves, but they actively sought to prevent Gentiles from believing.

Remarkably, these actions came not from atheists but from religious Jews.

So you might say, “I would never assassinate someone”, but what about this type of assassination? You might be killing someone’s character and reputation through false or malicious statements, with the intention to damage their credibility.

Slander may not physically end a life, but it perpetrates a more covert and destructive form of harm: character assassination.

In our passage what motivated them to poison? Jealousy.
They envied the apostles’ accomplishments, as they witnessed the people believing their message and turning to follow Christ.

This tactic of the enemy extends beyond the context of evangelism that we just considered.
The problem extends into churches, where Satan seeks to turn believers against each other through slander.

Paul himself faced such challenges. For example, in Romans 3:8, he refers to false accusations made against him, where some claimed he advocated, “And why not do evil that good may come?”

Our enemy so hates Christ’s church that he will seek to slander and divide believers from one another when no division should be made. And then unbelieving children see the poor conduct of their parents and become disillusioned to Christianity–Satan wins them.

Then to the opposite spectrum, some believers, by failing to establish necessary divisions, end up slandering and misrepresenting God to others by accepting lies and false teachings. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:19 – there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

Do you and I take this seriously enough?
James 3:8 describes the tongue as full of deadly poison. We can misuse our words to spew this poison, as James 3:5 illustrates: ‘how great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire.’ A single slanderous blog post or video can devastate someone’s reputation. Just a few words, even whispered in a small corner of the world, can ignite a massive fire, instantly casting a poisonous cloud over the minds of readers and listeners.

Consider this: if you saw someone pouring poison into your drink, you wouldn’t continue to drink it; you’d put it down and confront them. So why do we keep ‘drinking’ when someone starts slandering? We often listen until our hearts grow cold towards the person being maligned. It might not physically harm us, but it certainly destroys that person’s character in our minds.

Similarly, Satan aims to sow discord, tempting individuals to embrace falsehoods.

It’s essential to critically evaluate the information we come across: Is it truthful and does it accurately reflect the individual’s beliefs and character?

And we should also ask: Should I even be coming across this information in the first place? Is it for my ears to hear and my eyes to read?

Just because it is accesible does not mean I should be accessing this information.

Satan’s ultimate goal is to infiltrate and poison your mind, turning you decisively against God.

How should we react to harmful slander directed at us? 
Look at how Paul and Barnabas handled it when people turned against them due to lies. In the face of hostility, they chose to stay and defend the truth with courage, as mentioned in the passage, “So they remained.” They countered the lies by boldly proclaiming their faith and demonstrating God’s power through signs and wonders, proving their divine mission. Despite their efforts, opinions were still split, with some continuing to oppose them.

In response to slander, they stood their ground and spoke up for a considerable period. However, when faced with the threat of physical harm, as mentioned in Acts 14:4 where there was a risk of being stoned, they chose to leave and continue spreading the gospel elsewhere. This teaches us that there may be times when we need to speak up, even if it seems like we’re just defending ourselves.

In 2 Corinthians 6:12, Paul states that the church he founded grew distant due to false apostles’ lies accusing him of wrongdoing. He earnestly seeks to repair this relationship, urging them to open their hearts again.
As you read his letters to that church you can almost picture Paul like an EMT who is treating poisoning—aiming to restore and save that relationship.

In certain situations, responding to slander may not be necessary.

Asahel Nettleton recounts a conversation between a man and an aged clergyman about dealing with slander: “My neighbors are slandering me, what shall I do?” The clergyman advised, “Do your duty and think nothing about it. If they are disposed to throw mud, let them; but do not attempt to wipe it off, lest you smear yourself with it.” Nettleton, when faced with slander, was reluctant to defend himself publicly. He only considered sharing his views when he believed it was crucial for the benefit of Christ’s kingdom. This suggests that taking action to stop slander might inadvertently give the slanderers an opportunity to garner sympathy.

In another example, George Whitefield, despite being deeply affected by slander, chose to trust in divine justice, believing that his integrity would eventually be vindicated. He expressed faith that God would defend him and that the truth would prevail in the end.

Different situations may warrant different reactions.

How should we respond?
When faced with slander, it’s important not to succumb to discouragement or despair. J.O. Fraser experienced false accusations while working among the Lisu people, claiming he had ulterior motives for being there. Initially, such accusations would have deeply troubled him, but he learned to see discouragement as a tool used by the devil, equating its impact to that of sin itself. Fraser’s approach was to rely on God’s support, maintaining his peace and faith undisturbed by the slander.

When someone reacts defensively and is quick to counter accusations, it may imply they are central to the problem, especially when their response is marked by a strong desire to correct the accuser. This behavior often highlights their deep concern over the claims made against them. Moreover, if the allegations are false, one might argue that an individual’s true character should naturally clear their name without the need for such vehement defense.
Similarly, Conrad Murrell emphasizes the importance of introspection and honesty in response to slander. Even when affirming our innocence, it’s wise to consider any elements of truth in the accusations, as they can be opportunities for personal growth and correction. Acknowledging any truth in the slander doesn’t validate the entire falsehood but allows us to learn and improve. Murrell points out that facing slander can lead to soul-searching, discipline, and a deeper trust in God amid public rejection.

Paul says this Christian life is one in which we go “through slander and praise.” (2Co 6:8). Paul’s teachings remind us that the Christian life involves navigating both slander and praise.
To prevent being misled by false accusations or slander, Christians should consider several proactive measures:

1. Seek Both Sides of the Story: Just as Proverbs 18:17 suggests, a story can seem convincing until it’s examined from another perspective. It’s easy to be misled when only hearing one side of an argument. Ensuring that you’ve listened to all parties involved can prevent misunderstandings.

2. Direct Communication: Following Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18, if someone brings up another’s faults, encourage direct communication between the parties involved rather than entertaining hearsay. This prevents the division that can occur from misunderstandings or deliberate slander.

3. Guard Against Division: Recognize the tactics of discord, such as gossip and slander, that can drive wedges between friends and loved ones. The Bible says a “whisperer” can separate close friends by sowing seeds of distrust.

4. Consult God’s Word for Truth: If doubts arise about God or His goodness, turn to the scriptures for truth and reassurance. God’s word is the ultimate source of truth and can dispel any falsehoods or misconceptions.

5. Believe the Best About Others: As guided by 1 Corinthians 13:7, strive to think the best of others and withhold judgment until all facts are known. This involves giving others the benefit of the doubt and seeking clarity through communication.

6. Forgive and Show Love: Even in cases where the slander or betrayal is true, Christians are called to forgive and display Christ’s love. Jesus’ response to Peter’s denial, praying for his faith not to fail, is a powerful example of forgiveness and support in the face of betrayal.’’

7. Live holy and righteous. To minimize the risk of slander, we should live with integrity and avoid hypocrisy, much like Paul and Barnabas did to counteract efforts to discredit them. Peter, understanding that slander is an inevitable challenge for the righteous, advises in First Peter 2:12 to uphold honorable behavior, especially in the presence of non-believers. This way, even if slander occurs, our positive actions will speak louder, rendering false accusations ineffective.

By implementing these measures, Christians can protect themselves from the harmful effects of slander and maintain unity and love within their churches.
A few examples of poisoning attempts – successful and unsuccessful – and those who have died from poison.

Absalom’s successful slander campaign is depicted in 2 Samuel 15:1-6. He intercepted those seeking judgment from King David (his Father!), suggesting inadequacy in David’s leadership by lamenting the lack of appointed officials for their cases. Absalom’s claim, “Oh that I were judge in the land… I would give him justice,” in verse 4, was misleading, as David was indeed delivering justice. Absalom’s words, as verse 6 notes, “stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” This exemplifies slander’s power to sway hearts and minds based on half-truths. Absalom’s deception led to a mutiny against David, though his followers eventually recognized their mistake.
What is God’s view on those who dispense poisonous slander?

Proverbs 6:19 condemns those who sow discord, a sin God hates. In Matthew 23:13, Jesus denounces the scribes and Pharisees for blocking heaven’s entry and being hypocrites.

In Conclusion
In a world where words have the power to uplift or destroy, it’s crucial to be aware of the impact our speech can have on others and on ourselves. The reality is that there are individuals who, lost in their own beliefs, may attempt to tarnish the truth and those who stand by it, aiming to keep others ensnared in falsehood. This prompts us to question: Are we steadfastly and courageously speaking the truth, ensuring others are not misled by deceit but are exposed to genuine light?

As believers, it’s essential to reflect on our own actions:
– Are we inadvertently poisoning minds with our words? I
– Have we allowed our perception of someone to be tainted by unfounded claims? It’s easy to be influenced by hearsay, but critical to seek the truth for ourselves.
– Has someone’s reputation been unjustly damaged in our circle through slander?
– How do we view the Lord? We must be vigilant against any misconceptions that could distance us from the truth of His character.

Furthermore, it’s important not to become overly sensitive to the point of ignoring valid criticism. Not all harsh words are malicious; some may be necessary truths for our growth.

In conclusion, guarding against the venom of slander is vital for preserving the purity of our minds and souls. By fostering a culture of truth, understanding, and grace, we can protect ourselves and others from being swayed by baseless lies. Remembering the destructive power of the tongue, let’s commit to using our words to heal and uplift, aligning ourselves with God’s love and truth in a world often filled with deception.