Sticks and Stones
“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Col. 3:13
There are companies that make their money using hurtful and untrue words; that make their living putting things out there and dealing with the consequences later. I was reminded of this the other day when I was in the store and I saw a pretty famous tabloid and right as I was reading the headline and thinking if anyone would buy this publication, the lady in front of me turned around, grab one, and threw it onto the belt with her groceries. It was almost like she could hear my thoughts. Well, it got me thinking about lawsuits and people who have to dal with that kind of stuff. So, here is a list of the top 5 celebrity lawsuits. (taken from insidecousel.com)
5. Cameron Diaz – Sued a tabloid because it claimed she was having an affair with another celebrity when, in fact, both were in relationships of their own and were not having an affair.
4. Robin Williams – Williams sued his celebrity look-alike who, with the help of his agent, was pretending to be the actual Robin Williams. Under false pretenses, the look-alike was cheating charities under Robin Williams’ name and causing serious damage to his reputation.
3. Kiera Knightley – The Daily Mail published accusations that Knightley had an eating disorder and had been responsible for the death of a young lady with anorexia. The actress went to court and was awarded several thousand dollars which she handed over to a charity.
2. Sharon Stone – Plastic surgeon Renato Calabria let two U.S. magazines know that Stone had received a facelift. Stone claimed the accusations were false and had defamed her resulting in difficulty in finding work. She sued the surgeon for damages and won.
1. David Beckham – A magazine printed an article claiming that Beckham had hired a prostitute, so he sued. Since Beckham could not prove the magazine acted maliciously, he lost the court ruling and his $25 million lawsuit was tossed out.
The most famous libel lawsuit is…Hulk Hogan. You know, it’s hard when someone says something about you that is not true and really is out and out a lie. But it happens, and probably more often than we care to admit. As we continue through the book of James, he addresses this very subject and how we, especially within the church, should not be a part of such things. If you are able, please stand as we read James 4:11-12.
Read Passage – James 4:11-12
“Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”
It All Comes Down to 2 Laws
James is really taking the thoughts and ideas of Jesus here and asking us to put our faith into action by considering how we are treating one another. God has always been concerned about how people are treated. We are God’s creation and he doesn’t like seeing his creation treated improperly. God helped us by giving us the 10 Commandments as a rule and guide for living. In Leviticus and Deuteronomy those laws are expanded so that we have guides for almost every kind of situation in life. And if that wasn’t enough, he sent prophets to help along the way in the O.T. as well. There is a period of almost 400 where God was silent but then he broke that silence and sent his son Jesus Christ. In Matthew 22 the religious leaders are trying to test Jesus by asking him which is the greatest commandments to follow. (Really God wants us to follow all of them.) But Jesus, he tells them that it all comes down to 2 laws:
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matt. 22:37-39
So Jesus really simplifies it for them, he says it is all about two laws or ethics; one, your relationship with God, and two, your relationship with others. They were trying to trap him but Jesus wasn’t falling into their trap, he just simplifies things for them, and for us too. You might recall Jesus words from Matthew 5 right after Jesus had given the multitudes The Beattitudes:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matt. 5:17
Jesus wants to make it clear that he is not contradicting anything from the past or changing what God has previously given, he was coming to fulfill the law and was showing us what it looked like to live out those laws in our lives.
Ill. Can you imagine if they had tabloids back then? The Jerusalem Star – headline: Jesus Claims; “I fulfill of the Law of God” 🙂
The Pitfalls of Slander
James stresses very strongly in this passage that slander should not be part of who we are. So let’s make sure we have a good clear definition of slander so we can apply what he is saying.
Slander: to make a false spoken statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone (Meriam-Webster Dictionary)
Notice the two aspects of slander; 1) it’s a false spoken statement; and, 2) it’s having a bad opinion (How we view people in our head)
Let’s be clear as well as to whom James is saying this, verse 1a:
“Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another.” vs. 11a
Be careful here and notice; James is talking to the church! He is using the term brothers and sisters because he is addressing those within the church. It would be best if we didn’t have this kind of attitude at all but even more so, this should not be something that is part of church life. As family, God’s family, false statements and bad opinions should be checked at the door. This is so important because as family we are to love one another and build each other up (1 Thess. 5:11) as Paul says. God loves us and we are his children. We should not be tearing each other down, period! It’s important to know why; because we are not acting as God’s children or as family when we do so and it stops s from having unity and effective worship.
Ex. A parent saying “That’s not how we act in this family!”
*It Puts You Above Others
James point out three pitfalls of slander. The first pitfall is that when we slander, you put yourself above others. James says in verse 11b:
“Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it.” vs. 11b
It’s interesting that in our culture today we have a high value on “no judging.” You often hear people say things like, “I’m not judging you,” or “We are not to judge others.” It’s more severe in the church. When we judge, we are telling our brother or sister that they don’t belong in the church. That’s not our call. God already made it clear that is not our job to decide who is in and out, that’s his call. In a sense we are saying that we are better than you and that God’ wants us more. No! God’s law is that all are welcome.
*It Puts You Above the Law
The second pitfall is that when you slander, you put yourself above the law, verse 11c:
“When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.” vs. 11c
There is a subtle yet import thing to grasp here, that when we slander we are declaring that we know best, that we know better and that our way is the way. God didn’t give us laws to pick and choose which we think are correct and which we want to follow. No, we are to follow the whole law and Jesus, as we stated earlier, came to fulfill the law meaning that we need to be even more intent on keeping his word.
Ex. Do not lie. He didn’t say don not lie when it is convenient or when you think it is best or when it is for the greater good. No, we are called not to lie and many people try to justify their lies.
Don’t put yourself above the law.
*It Puts You Above God
And the third pitfall is that when you slander, you put yourself above God, verse 12:
“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” vs. 12
This is harsh but very true, when you slander, we have put ourselves in God’s place and we are assuming power. God has the power not us. We somehow live in this illusion that we have the power. That goes back to Satan’s words to Eve in the garden where he entices her and says that “you will be like God.” We fall into that thinking that we are like God. We are not.
Ex. My call to the phone company and asked to speak to a manager. The operator aske dhow she could help. I asked “are you a manager?” She said no. She was assuming the power but she didn’t have the power. We should not be assuming God’s power.
Steps To Avoid the Pitfall
In order for us to put James’ words into action, we have some big decisions to make so I challenge you to make some tough decisions this morning.
1. Desire Peace Not “Winning”
First, what is more important to you, having peace with each other, or winning? Many of us can be competitive and stubborn. We are more concerned about being right and getting our way, winning, than we are about having peace. God’s message to us is to get along and to build each other up and ultimately to live in peace with one another. Romans 12:18 says:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
I have at times been approached about being a mediator of sorts for people. Sometimes it is a married couple, sometimes a parent and child and sometimes just two people who are in disagreement. Here is usually the way I’ve been asked to mediate; “Pastor we have a disagreement. Will you listen and tell them I am right? Within the church, we should be more concerned about peace yet “winning” has become more important. And this isn’t just in individual cases, this is in churches as a whole and denominations.
Ex. Last week we talked about the top causes of disputes in the church; worship style, decision making, length of service, etc. Isn’t sad that we are more concerned about winning and having our way than having peace within the body of Christ?
2. Remember God Loves All People
The second decision is to decide if you are going to love all people or just the ones you decide to love. Now don’t get me wrong with this, we are not called to be best friends with everyone. And, there are some people that you just don’t click with. That’s okay. It is important to remember that God makes it clear that he loves everyone. This took me back to some verses I memorized as a kid, John 3:16-17:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16
The challenge is to remember that Jesus died for anyone who will take his free gift. He doesn’t die for just a few, just for the good people, just for the rich, etc. He died for all and when we slander, we lessen the work of Jesus Christ. Remember this is written to the church and if the world sees the church back biting, slandering, talking behind each others back, etc. They will not want to be a part of that church. That’s why James starts with the question in verse 1 of this chapter what causes quarrels and fights among you? People see enough of that in the world.
3. Commit to Personal Integrity
And the third decision is really one that is a tough one that you have to make internally, are you going to commit to personal integrity? They thing about slander is that it tears you down and it becomes a stumbling block to worshipping God and to being the person God created you to be. In fact, slander can lead you away from God and make you miserable. You need to commit to personally being committed to God and his ways and allow him to lead you and change your heart. Jesus is addressing a crowd in Mark 8 and he challenges them with this thought in verse 36:
“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Mark 8:36
See our decisions and the way we live have eternal consequences. Personal integrity is being fair and honest with yourself and it’s a state of being complete or whole. We are only whole when we allow God to lead and when we follow his ways.
Get Out of My Chair
Let me challenge you with this thought about that? Whose in your chair? We all have a heart and soul and we have this space there. Some call it a hole or a void or something like that, but for our purpose today I am going to call it a chair. (Kind of like a throne) Who is sitting on the chair of your heart and soul? Is it God? Is it you? God is asking us to allow him to be the one that sits on the chair. Let him guide, direct, etc. His ways are the best and he only wants the best for us and when we let God sit in the chair, He can change even the worst of people to someone beautiful. Many of us refuse to get out of the chair. We like being in charge and in control. In fact, when it comes to our brothers and sisters, we are called to allow God on the throne and tell us how we are to handle those relationships. His way is found in Col. 3:13:
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Col. 3:13
We are called to bear and forgive. There is only one reason why we need to do this; he did for us through his son Jesus. Because Jesus died and rose again, God has forgiven us. Because of his grace and gratitude, we are called to do the same. Lead into communion.