God’s Big Ten: Christian Assassins!

Today we’re looking at the 9th commandment.

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Originally this is spoken in a legal setting. Do not lie about so-and-so. In the ancient world there was so such thing as forensic experts. There was no C.S.I. Jerusalem. The testimony of others was critical. Yet, then, just as today, finding multiple witnesses without personal attachment was hard to do. Everyone is personally attached – it’s difficult to remain neutral. That’s one reason I tell young couples not to get their parents involved in marital conflict because parents have a hard time not taking sides with their child. If you need a mediator, parents are usually NOT the best choice.

The same is true in legal matters. Don’t bring in a family member who has bias. Often times you will see family backing up something they KNOW to be wrong simply because they cannot go against family. You need to find an impartial person who is not going to give false testimony. People who give false testimony against others assassinate your character.

minion-ninjaThe character assassin is a crafty ninja. He goes around and he starts telling untruths about others. He pulls out his ninja swords and cuts people down with his lies and deceit. God says, “This isn’t the way I want my community to function!”

A healthy society depends on people being honest. So in the OT they actually had a law that said if someone lies about someone, the punishment that would have been on the accused now falls on the liar. It’s a reverse punishment. (Deut. 19:18-19).

If someone is on trial for his life, a liar caught giving false testimony must pay with his own life. God is very clear that lying about others in order to damage or would someone is NOT okay!

Even Jesus says false testimony defiles a person. One time when the religious leaders were upset with Jesus because his disciples “defiled” themselves by not washing their hands before they ate, Jesus told them, “It’s not the food going in that defiles you. You’re not toilet_flushingdirtied until the stuff comes out of you!”

Yes, even Jesus enjoyed bathroom humor.

But it was a double entendre. What comes out of a person’s heart is what defiles him, things such as evil thoughts, blasphemies, and false witness. (Matthew 15:1-20) Lying about others doesn’t just damage them. The false things we say about others defiles us – makes us unclean.

While we may not find ourselves defending untrue allegations in court, we will find ourselves the victims of personal, false attacks on our character and behavior. This commandment carries beyond legal attitudes and into all of the ways we talk about other people

We can be character assassins without ever going to court. We can participate in gossip, rumors, and slander, and spread falseness without ever seeing the inside of a court. Rumors are a form of social bullying – to bring a person down and to put the gossiper up high.

You might have been the victim of a character assassin who is spreading false junk against you. Perhaps you’ve found yourself in the chain of passing along the rumor. There are really three ways to approach character assassins.

If you’re the one talking – STOP IT!

It’s pretty clear, isn’t it? There’s no need for you to be spreading false garbage against other people, no matter what they may have done to you. It doesn’t matter how they have behaved towards you in the past, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Jesus once said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus IS truth, so speaking false junk is directly opposed to Jesus Christ. How can you claim to be a follower of Jesus if you actively participate in spreading falseness?

If you hear something about someone else – STOP IT!

Call time out. You don’t need to be involved. But we love dirty laundry (Don Henley song…), especially when it isn’t ours. Our own dirty laundry we hide, but we revel when we see other people’s. There’s no room for such behavior in God’s kingdom.

Ignorance is no excuse. Do you ignorantly pass on false info? We see so many do this with the internet. Now you have the opportunity to have tens of thousands of people passing on ridiculously bogus info (Lotto math; Obama curtains, etc.). If we looked at our online behavior through an OT lens and we were punished with the same punishment we’re asking for the person we’re speaking against, would we still be so quick to spread the lies?

IF YOU DO NEED TO BE INVOLVED (like this is a life-or-death situation), DON’T PASS ON INFO OR ACT ON INFO BLINDLY – VERIFY, VERIFY, VERIFY. When you spread stories about others, you can’t take it back. Labels stick, and are often impossible to scrub off. Think about what you say.

Words have power.

If you’re being talked about

This is the hard one. You can’t control what comes at you but you can control what you hold on to and how you behave. There are 5 ways we can behave when people bring false accusations against us:

  1. Live in such a way that, if people accuse you, others can see that it’s bogus. (1 Peter 2:12). Sometimes that means going above and beyond – walking a fine line and not taking an easy road. It means our behavior is impeccable.
  2. Go to the source and try to reconcile (Matthew 18). This is dealing with it man-a-mano. Keep it off FB!
  3. Never stop being polite to those who hurt you. Just because someone may have been a jerk to you doesn’t give us permission to be jerks back to them. We are called to treat everyone well, the way we want to be treated, in spite of the injuries done to us.
  4. Tell the truth to anyone who asks (without seeking to tell everyone!) Don’t lie. Don’t cover up. Don’t be vindictive. But calmly and simply be a truth-teller.
  5. Don’t give people more ammo to attack you with – be calm, honest, and discreet. When people spread false things about you, most people want you respond in an angry way. It adds fuel to the fire and justifies them in their own minds. You can’t feed the trolls. Starve the trolls.

These five things don’t leave us feeling satisfied when we’ve been wronged. There’s no justice being done. But Jesus calls us to be a new kind of community – a community that treats each other well and speaking only truth.

We don’t listen to falseness. We don’t spread falseness. We respond appropriately even if attacked. And even though we might want to fill their mouths of our attackers with superglue, that doesn’t seem like a very Christ-like thing to do… 😉


Questions for Reflection

  • Have I participated in spreading false things against others?
  • Have I been passive while hearing other people spread false things about others?
  • Have I lived with such integrity that people wouldn’t believe false things?

You’ve Got a Big Mouth :-O

baby tongueIt’s fun watching babies discover how to make sounds with their mouths and tongues. While it’s all gibberish, they realize that they are able to produce a wide variety of noises. Like babies, adults have the ability to make a wide variety of noises – and it’s not all good!

How we use our tongues is a big part of practical Christianity (not just what we believe but how we actually live out our faith in real life). This is what James is talking about in 3:1-12 ~

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

One little body part can bring on so many BIG problems. The tongue is a spark that starts forest fires! Our words can do incredible damage if we’re not careful.

I’m always reminded of a joke my mom taught me when I was a kid about a big-mouthed little frog. I’ve heard several variations, but the gist of it goes like this:

A big-mouthed little frog was hopping down the road when he saw a cat. In a very loud voice the frog yelled, “MR. CAT! TELL ME, WHAT DO YOU EAT?” The cat yawned and said, “I drink milk,” and went back to sleep. The frog said, “OH, THAT’S NICE!” and hopped down the road.


Then the big-mouthed little frog met a dog. “MR. DOG!” shouted the frog, “WHAT DO YOU EAT?” “I eat meat,” said the dog. The frog shouted, “OH, THAT’S NICE!” and hopped down the road.

Then the big-mouthed little frog met a cow munching on some grass. The big-mouth frog shouted, “MR. COW, WHAT DO YOU EAT?” “Can’t you see?” said the cow. “I eat grass!” Again, the frog shouted in its big voice, “OH! THAT’S NICE!” and hopped away.

Then the frog saw a big alligator on the side of the road and shouted, “MR. ALLIGATOR! WHAT DO YOU EAT?” The alligator smiled a big, toothy smile, looked at the frog, and said, “I eat big-mouthed little frogs.” The frog hopped back, then whispered in a very small voice, “Oh… that’s nice.”

We can choose what we do with our mouths! We can build people up or tear them down. Proverbs 10:19 says it like this:

When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise.

So what’s the answer to the problem? Jesus tells us:

How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. (MATTHEW 12:34-35)

To change your mouth you have to change your heart – when we actually develop a loving and caring heart then our words will follow. Our goal should be to speak life: affirming words, compliments, loving words,

Imagine a world where people use their tongues to help people rather than hurt people. One kind word can make a HUGE difference in someone’s life – be the person to speak it! You have the power to create or destroy – which will you choose?

For Reflection:

– How have I been hurt by someone’s words?
– Have I used my words to hurt others?
– How can I be more intentional to build others up through my words?

Birdseed Christians

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last year we took a family trip to a nearby zoo. There was one section designated the “petting zoo” where children could interact with animals. I asked my oldest if she want to go in and feed the goats and she said yes. As we were walking through the animals my daughter seemed okay. She was a little timid but there was nothing to be concerned about…until we approached the feed dispenser. When the goats saw us nearing the dispenser they knew what was coming and rushed over to grab some food. At this point I had the feed in my hand and goats were rearing up and some were butting heads to get the food. When they reared they were taller than my daughter, and at this point she was starting to panic and was clinging to my leg. I was knocking goats away, trying to protect her. Finally I just tossed all the food away and the goats swarmed it. That’s when we made our break and escaped the petting zoo – never to return (read that last phrase in an ominous voice).

My wife and I had a similar experience visiting St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. The square outside the Cathedral was famous for pigeons. Thousands of them! And tourists could stand in the middle of the square, hold out birdseed in both hands, and have the birds flock to you and land on you. It was quite a sight (and yes, I tried it). You’ve got to be careful with that birdseed.


The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Ephesus

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. 29 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. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:22-32)

Notice that he says Christians “put off the old self” – the language is very similar to changing clothes, taking off one outfit to put on another. There is supposed to be a difference in Christian behavior from the way the rest of the world operates. Our outfits are supposed to be new and different. That plays out specifically in our language and how we use our words. Paul says to put off unwholesome talk or “foul language.”

I’ve heard many people use this verse to tell others not to use profanity. The debate about what words are (or should be) taboo is for another time, but suffice to say that Paul isn’t talking about that here. “Foul language” is not about profanity but about language that tears down others. With our mouths we have the power to harm or to heal, especially when it comes to rumors and gossip (some of the most “foul language” around).

Our words become like birdseed and those crazy pigeons. Every time you jump in the rumor mill you are spreading birdseed. Even if you get the facts right later the seed is still out there. I’m still trying to clean up birdseed from a over year ago. “Did you hear that Pastor Chris did…? Did you hear that Pastor Chris said…?”

You have probably had to deal with this in your life. “Did you hear about…?” And the birdseed gets scattered. Then the hungry birds come and devour the seed and then fly away. What do full birds do? They poop! Someone miles away might get pooped on because of the seed you were spreading. How do you stop birds from pooping on people? Stop spreading the birdseed! This isn’t what Christian behavior is supposed to look like.

The book of Acts does give us a picture of what the church SHOULD look like. It’s supposed to be characterized by 1) authentic community – the church is supposed to be a place where you can experience relationships the way they were meant to be, 2) wholehearted worship – the church is where God gets the glory He deserves, 3) spiritual growth – the church is where you can become the best YOU that you can be, 4) financial care and responsibility – the church is where our time, talents, and treasure get invested for eternity, and 5) reaching others – the church is where everyone gets adopted into God’s family. When the Church embraces those characteristics it becomes a powerful force in the world and in people’s lives.

We Choose. What type of Church community would you prefer to be part of? The birdseed model or the Acts model? We choose what kind of people we are going to be. It is my prayer that we refuse to be birdseed Christians and start being the purposeful people we see in Acts.

Stop throwing birdseed. Be the people He calls us to be.

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