Overcoming Sin Through Christ – Blasphemy or Slander

Overcoming Sin through Christ

Richard Hollerman

Blasphemy or Slander

Are you a blasphemer? Do you slander others with your speech? Is this a sin that you dare to commit? Do you do it regularly or occasionally? Maybe you know of others with whom you work or live who blaspheme God and slander others. If you do blaspheme or slander, you should know that this is a serious sin that God judges severely.

The English word blaspheme is defined in this way: “To speak of (God or a sacred entity) in an irreverent, impious manner. . . . to revile.”[1]  We believe that most uses of blaspheme refer to speaking against God, but it can be used regarding reviling a person as well.  Slander is “defamation; calumny. . . . a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report.”[2]  It is “a false and malicious statement or report about someone.”[3]  The Greek word is blasphemeo (anglicized as “blaspheme”) and denotes “to slander, blaspheme, insult” especially regarding speech.[4]

Blaspheme may be illustrated in the accusation of the Jews against Stephen: “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God” (Acts 6:11).  The charge, of course, was false, but it does show the usage.  They accused the man of God of “speaking against” God and the Law of Moses.  The beast of Revelation 13:5 “was given” a “mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies.”  People on the earth were seen as blaspheming God (16:11).  “Men blasphemed God” (16:21).  They spoke against God

If people repent of the sin of blasphemy, they may be forgiven, for Jesus said, “Any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31).  Blasphemy or speaking against God and using His name in a disrespectful, light, unthinking way is a terrible crime and worthy of death and the judgment!  People even blasphemed Christ Jesus (cf. Mark 15:29, “hurling abuse at Him”; cf. Luke 22:64-65; 23:39). 

What about today?  Many people—perhaps a majority of them—openly curse and swear, using the name of God, Christ, Jesus, Christ Jesus, Jesus Christ, Lord, and similar references to Deity!  Shockingly, we’ve probably all heard preachers or other religious people exclaim, “Lord!”  A woman may shout, “Oh Lord!” or “My Lord!”  Or they may say, “Jesus!”  Although they may not think they are blaspheming, they are actually taking God’s name in a light and careless way—all in the name of religion.  They are not really praying or calling out to God for help, but they just use God’s name or Christ’s name for emphasis.  How shocking—and how sad!  All of this vain speaking is an offense against the One whose name is holy!

Blasphemy can also be translated slander, a word that means speaking against or insulting another person.  Slanderous speaking is a common sin that is on the lips of most people, sometimes without the person realizing it.  They “speak against” or insult others without love for them, without grief for the sin, and with no desire to do anything for the other.  They justify themselves by pointing out the flaws and sins of others which is thought to make slander permissible.

Jesus said that “slander” is an “evil thing” that proceeds “from within” and defiles the one who slanders (Mark 7:22-23; cf. Matthew 15:19-20).  (“Railing” was a common term in the past.)  Paul says that slander must be “put away from you” (Ephesians 4:31) or put aside (Colossians 3:8). It is classified with other sins that will bring the wrath of God (v. 6).  The apostle says that false teachers will exert influence and the outcome will be “envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction” (1 Timothy 6:3-5).  The ESV renders this as “slander” (blasphemiai).

The Holy Scriptures say that slanderers deserve to die (Romans 1:30, 32). . . . Satan is willing to pay any price to get us to sin so that we will be damned one day.  He wants us to be not even aware that we have indulged in it; he wants us to think that this sin of slander cannot possibly apply to us!  But it is a fact that this sin is very wide-spread among us Christians.  It is one of the traits of our Pharisaism. . . . So our fate for eternity depends upon whether we are freed from gossip and slander.  How angry God must be at slanderers, if He forbids us to eat with them.  Never will they have fellowship with other believers in the Kingdom of God—they will be cast out into darkness.[5]

Peter also shows how wrong slander is. He says that “all slander” must be put aside if we are Christians (1 Peter 2:1).  Paul says that he fears that slander will be a sin that the Corinthians have not repented of (2 Corinthians 12:20-21).  The apostle says that all “slanderers” are “worthy of death” (Romans 1:30, 32).  David, the king of Israel, felt so strongly about this sin that he wrote, “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; no one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure” (Psalm 101:5).  Interestingly, the early Christians themselves were the objects of the slander of unbelievers (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:13; 10:30; 1 Peter 2:12; 3:16; cf. also Matthew 5:11-12).

One lecturer by the name of Joseph Telushkin, author of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, sometimes asks his audience whether they could go for 24 hours without saying something unkind about another person.  Generally, only a few raise their hands.  Many people answer, “No!”  Telushkin responds, “Those of you who can’t answer yes must recognize that you have a serious problem.  If you cannot go twenty-four hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol.  If you cannot go twenty-four hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. Similarly, if you cannot go twenty-four hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue.”[6]  We can see why James wrote, “We all stumble in many ways.  If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well” (3:2).  Slander—speaking against others in an unkind way—is very common and most don’t realize the dreadful consequences of their verbal sin.

One writer tries to explain his own views on slander in this way:

My thinking about slander can be somewhat summarized by saying that our words about others can be slander or not be slander, depending on the motives of the person speaking. If I tell you my wife is a very disorganized person, I can be saying that to cut her down, make myself look superior, etc.; or conversely, I can say that with the hope that you don’t expect more of her than she will deliver, and with the goal of helping you to better understand how to relate to her, etc.

A rule I try to go by is to say negative things about others, only to those who are a part of the problem or a part of the solution. “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm.” Paul had good reason to inform Timothy about the matter as the next verse indicates. If Timothy had not been informed, he might likewise be harmed by him, perhaps become discouraged by his actions. Thus, by Paul informing Timothy, he could be a part of the solution by avoiding him (2 Timothy 4:14-15).

Whether we speak of blasphemy against God by using His name in a trite, careless, or evil way, or whether we are referring to “speaking against” another person in an unloving and disrespectful way, we will be held accountable.  Jesus said, “Every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). 

What can we do when someone in our presence does take God’s name in a careless or disrespectful way or as a common curse word?  Someone suggests saying, “You are speaking about my Friend!”  Another person suggested, “Would you take your mother’s name as a swear word?  How, then, can you use the eternal God’s name in this way?”  Yet another approach would be: “Did you know that God said, ‘The LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain’?” (Exodus 20:7)

 



[1] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[2] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

[3] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[4] Mounce, Expository Dictionary.

[5] Schlink, You Will Never be the Same, pp. 162-164.

[6] 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), p. 487.

 

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