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In an age of slander
October 25, 2010
by Rev. Steve Olson, Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Dassel

It’s election time, and attack ads fill the air. Sad to say, that is politics as usual.

Yet, the truth is, we can’t only blame the politicians. After all, we are the ones who listen to these things, and the only reason they put them on the air is because they work.

Have you ever wondered why that it is? There are two simple answers. The first is that “half the world delights in gossip, and the other half in hearing it.” The second is, we all know the world is in a mess and we want someone to blame.

Yet, is our self-righteous anger and indignation Christ-like? In a world such as ours, what would Jesus have us do with all the nasty stuff that floods the air waves, the media, and the coffee shop? In particular, what do we do when we are the ones being attacked?

Let’s start with that last question first. Jesus had some direct advice: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27b-28)

Talk about being counter-cultural! This is all very easy to say, but tough to do. Our human nature is to fight back, to defend ourselves. It is the easy and natural thing to do, but no one ever said being a Christian was easy.

So, we take the high road by turning the other cheek, doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, and praying for those who abuse us. That is what Jesus tells us to do.

That is job one, but the second job is just as important. Not only are we to be Christ-like in how we act when we are being attacked, but we are also to be Christ-like when others are being attacked. Rather than turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the slander that surrounds us, we are called to remember the commandment, “You shall not bear false witness, against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16

This commandment isn’t just about what we say about others, but also, what we allow to be said unchallenged. What does that mean?

In his explanation of this commandment, Martin Luther wrote, “We are to fear and love God so that we do not deceive by lying, betraying, slandering or ruining our neighbor’s reputation, but will defend him, say good things about him, and see the best side in everything he does.”

In this age of slander, we have a choice. We can be part of the problem by feeding into all the self-righteous anger and indignation; or we can start speaking the truth in love. Rather than rushing to spread the lies, betrayals, and slanders that ruin reputations, we can be a voice of reason, truth, and love.

We can help people to think things through before we start repeating things that may not be true. We can slow things down by defending the accused, speaking well of them, and explaining their actions in a kind way. And, if it turns out they are in the wrong, remember, Jesus had advice for that, too. Check it out in Matthew 18:15-17.

We can take the higher road. We can follow Christ, or we can follow the spirit of the age – a spirit of anger and slander. The choice is ours, but the calling is clear. May all God’s people hear it.