One of the things we regularly hear is how wonderful our Christian community is here in our little town. And it really is. We have many faithful churches, a Christian college downtown, Logos School, home-school groups, Canon Press, and many flourishing businesses owned and operated by Christian people. We have many opportunities to celebrate together at weddings, showers, potlucks, prayer groups, book groups, Bible studies, psalm sings, and women’s fellowship gatherings. And when a need arises through illness or loss, meals are made and varieties of help are sent. And I only know the half of it. Most of this happens from the ground up. It is not always “organized” by the church proper, but rather the saints are simply active, engaged, and hungry to give and serve one another. It is such an outpouring, it is hard to believe unless you have seen it with your own eyes. God has clearly blessed our community in a remarkable way.
Not only has God blessed us with rich fellowship, but He also blesses us with an occasional outburst of slander against our church. Back in the 1980’s, it was confined to the front page of our daily small-town paper and the letters-to-the-editor section. (Nothing like slander to sell papers when there’s not much else happening.) Then as the years went by, the internet provided an easy way to sponsor a slanderous outburst (no editors to deal with, so everyone can participate in spreading lies and venting bitterness, even with bad spelling).And so it goes.
I haven’t kept track, but it seems to erupt every few years. In fact, this is the second time I have had a beautiful grandchild born in the midst of “public calumny” against my husband. (I couldn’t keep the news out of this post that Moses Henry Jankovic was born two days ago!) I have come to believe that this strange phenomenon is a significant part of the reason for the rich blessings of our community life that I described above. Here’s why I believe this: Jesus said so.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11).
In other words, when our church and pastor are lied about, we are blessed. And so our church community benefits from these large doses of slander every so often because they are actually large doses of blessing. Our job is to rejoice and be extra glad during these times because a reward for us is accumulating in heaven. I believe this absolutely, and this is why I am planning to throw an extra wonderful Sabbath feast tomorrow, so we can rejoice all together around the table at the Lord’s great kindness toward us.
Now I haven’t always thought about it this way. When the first round of lies about us made it to our local paper back in the 80’s, I confess that I was very surprised. I had expected that resistance and persecution would always be phrased as “because you love Jesus.” But that’s because I hadn’t been paying attention to my Bible reading. I remember voicing my astonishment to my husband: “But they are lies! How can they tell lies about you like that?” And he reminded me that lies are the only weapon that the enemy has. Think about that. Satan is the father of all lies (John 8:44). He is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10) “who accused them before our God day and night.” Lies is his native tongue.
One striking similarity these rounds of slander always share is the accusative spirit that fills each one. That mark is what makes me know without a doubt that the accusations are of Satan, even though I know the testing is from God. And this encourages me very much.
I know that God uses these times in wonderful ways for us, for our family, for our Christian community, and for our church. I know and believe that no matter who it is that brings the slander, it is my loving and faithful God who sent it. And He means it absolutely for our good. I have seen this over and over.
The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, and He is active in these times. His word is easily distinguished from the satanic, accusative words. He gives us a lively faith, He gives us courage to believe His promises, and He comforts and strengthens us when the slander gets to be a hot mess.
Slander is a slippery business, and it is entirely out of our hands. It is an evil work and God will judge it. The Lord never blesses those who spread falsehood, slander, and lies. “Whoever spreads slander is a fool” (Prov. 10:18b). It is far better to be wronged than to do wrong. I far prefer being lied about than being one who is spreading lies. Here is a small sampling of what God thinks of falsehood:
“Behold the wicked brings forth iniquity; yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood. He made a pit and dug it out, and has fallen into the ditch which he made. His trouble shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown” (Psalm 7:14-16).
“You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man” (Psalm 5:6).
“An evildoer gives heed to false lips; a liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue” (Prov. 17:4).
“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who speaks lies will not escape” (Prov. 19:5).
“These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: …a lying tongue….a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19).
Providing a complete contrast to falsehood, Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). We are told to “stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth” when we put on the armor of God (Eph. 6:14) so we “may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). Many of those “wiles” are in the form of lies, slander, and falsehood. The truth is a strong defensive weapon, and so we put on Christ and stand.
Adversity and conflict are very good for us if we think about them rightly (biblically). They sharpen our faith. They provide opportunity to apply what God has taught us in His Word. We are tested, and we can, by God’s grace, pass the test. Jesus was lied about, and we are in good company when they lie about us. We have a good Savior who came out of the grave so He could walk with us through times like this. Without Him, we would have nothing to rejoice about when they lie about us. But with and in Christ, we have all we need and more.