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Are We Guilty of Slander?

Day 24 | Today’s passage: James 4:11-12 | Historical context of James

11 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?

Do you remember Mean Girls, the 2004 teen comedy hit starring Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams? In the movie, there was one object pivotal to the plot—the Burn Book. The Burn Book was a record of rumors, gossip, secrets, and insults of all the girls and some teachers in school. The contents were eventually exposed and there were serious consequences from all that slander (false and damaging statements about someone), with full-on fights and teachers being suspended.

We may marvel at how anyone could be so cruel as to record such mean things about people. However, as I thought about it, a thought came to mind: Do we have our own Burn Books? Sure, we may not hold actual physical records or voice aloud all our thoughts. But if we were to list down all the thoughts we’ve had about others, let’s just say they would probably not be as pure as we imagined them to be.

In this passage, James is addressing the issue of judging as part of a discussion on conflicts. He does this because slander and inappropriate judging are common causes of conflicts.

It is amazingly easy to criticize or pass judgment on someone, especially in the Christian community. Perhaps someone has been missing church for a few weeks because of an urgent family matter. Instead of expressing our concern and getting in touch with him, we quickly conclude that he’s losing his faith. Someone is diagnosed with cancer, and we surmise that it’s because of a secret sin. On Facebook, we see a picture of a fellow church member at a bar, and start calculating his alcohol intake.

Sometimes, the rumor or secret may well turn out to be true. But whether true or false, the heart of the matter is how we handle that knowledge. If we’re not careful, we use that knowledge to judge another Christian, thus creating conflicts, when the loving way should be to speak to the person in truth, seasoned with grace.

Addressing the judgmental spirit does not mean that the rule of law no longer applies. We still need to abide by God’s law and confront sin. What we’re not supposed to do is to proudly place ourselves above the law. When we criticize with such an attitude, we are actually acting from pride—because we think that we are better. We declare ourselves the lawmakers, when the only one in authority is God, as James states in verse 12.

At the end of Mean Girls, the students involved in the slander are made to face each other, confess and apologize, forgive, and reconcile with each other. It was not an easy resolution, but it was a liberating step towards peace. As brothers and sisters, may we walk in that same pursuit of peace. Let us keep our thoughts and intentions in check and not create mental Burn Books, and let us always seek to restore and heal relationships instead of destroying them.

—Charmain Sim, Malaysia

Questions for reflection

1. What are some ways in which we may judge others without meaning to?

2. What is the difference between being judgmental and being discerning?
How can we discern to uncover real sin without being judgmental?

3. If you uncover a truth about someone’s sin that needs to be addressed, what is the right way to go about it?


Charmain is a dreamer and pseudo-nomad whose life is best described by Hillsong United’s “Captain”. As a daughter of a merchant navy captain, she grew up sailing the seas. She’s now settled in Singapore . . . more or less. She is learning that true discipleship is marked by daily faithfulness and obedience more than sporadic inspiration. She writes because it helps her process experiences, and also because God has called her to it. When she’s not dreaming, Charmain loves an evening in with a bowl of ice-cream, a TV show or book, and her husband.

Read 30-day James Devotional

Mercy Begets Mercy

Day 13 | Today’s passage: James 2:12-13 | Historical context of James

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

I love reading and writing.
Because words affect me so deeply, I know how much they can heal or hurt. So I used to be very judgmental toward people who were careless—and thus, hurtful—with their words.

This changed when God led me to realize that linguistic proficiency was a strength He had bestowed me with; it didn’t come as naturally to others. At the same time, He showed me that there were areas of weaknesses in my life that were strengths in the lives of others.

Punctuality, for example, is something I have trouble with. God highlighted to me that just as I would desire others to show understanding toward me when I showed up late, so too should I extend that same kind of grace to others who struggle with language.

We all have a tendency to judge others, not just for their weaknesses, but also when they fall short of God’s commands. And this is made worse when favoritism is involved (2:8-11). But James tells us to “speak and act” mercifully toward others (v. 12), because we are all “going to be judged by the law” (v. 12)—the law of Christ which provides freedom from sin through the gospel (also seen in 1:25).

Though we know that as believers, there is no condemnation for us because of what Jesus has done for us (Romans 8:1-2), this does not mean that we will not be judged, or in other words, called to give an account to God for our deeds and words one day (2 Corinthians 5:10).

So, we would do well to treat others with mercy if we desire to be judged by Him mercifully, “for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).

Jesus teaches, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-35), He also cautions us that if we treat others unmercifully, God will also treat us the same way. James echoes this in verse 13.

James goes on to say that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (v. 13), because God delights in mercy (Micah 7:18). Since our Father is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4), we fulfill this desire of His heart when we are merciful toward others in wisdom and cheerfulness (Romans 12:8).

We are our Father’s children when we cherish the same things He cherishes, acting toward others in the same way that He would.

—Raphael Zhang, Singapore

Questions for reflection

1. What areas do you tend to judge others most harshly about? What might help you to be more merciful to others in these areas?

2. Do you see the law of Christ/law of liberty as something that gives you freedom? What might help you further grow in enjoying God’s law, as He lovingly planned for you to do?

Hand-lettering by Rachel Tu


Raphael enjoys reading and writing, and experiences them as means of connecting with the Word too beautiful for words. He believes there’s no such thing as having too many books. Having been led by Jehovah-Rapha to journey out of brokenness toward wholeness, he is passionate about bringing God’s healing to others, so that the brokenhearted can become wholehearted in loving God and people with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. He’s also crazy about cheeses, but his greatest love is still Jesus.

Read 30-day James Devotional

I Can’t Stand Judgmental Christians

Written By Kelsey Tarver, USA

I used to think like this: Judgmental? Not me! I can’t stand people who judge others.

The contradiction was right there in the statement, and somehow I was oblivious to it. But I said this boldly because I meant it.

The very sound of the word “judgmental” makes me cringe. If I close my eyes, it makes me picture a proud face with a stuck up nose, glaring eyes, and an air of disapproval looming in my direction. But the worst kind of judgment is the kind that comes from a loved one or a friend.

I know all about being judged. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I became used to all eyes being glued to my family. Like a giant magnifying glass constantly observing; “What is she wearing? Why were they late to church today? Is that a new car? How did they afford that?  Why is she talking in service?” Even into my adult years as a member of staff in a church, I have felt the constant eyes critiquing my every move.

Of course, not everyone was like this. For the most part I loved growing up in front of so many people in a loving church family. But aren’t there always just a few members who know how to make your blood boil? I would store them in a place in my mind that said, “Well, I love them but I don’t have to like them.”

This created a passion in me to never judge other people. I longed to extend grace and understanding, and judgmental gossip alone would make rage stir up inside my soul. My sensitivity towards this was birthed out of a very pure place. I simply longed so deeply for others to not have to feel bullied or judged, and I wanted everyone I encountered to feel accepted and loved.

But somehow along the way this pure desire ended up manifesting itself into a form of judgment that my eyes could not see. What was once an aspiration towards true love turned into love for people who were like me, with limited grace towards others who struggled with judgment or gossip.

The irony is thick! The very thing I hated, ended up being exactly what I became.

 

The trap of judgement

As Christians, I think it can be very easy to fall into the trap of judgment because we all have a high standard of how we want each other to live. We know what the Bible says and we expect each other to act like it. Unfortunately, when judgment sneaks its way into our church walls, we start looking a whole lot more critical of one another and a lot less like love.

Judgment has a slippery little way of sneaking its way into our hearts if we aren’t paying attention to our motives. It’s a sin that can sometimes be birthed from a pure place of longing for justice, but when only justice is present and grace gets left behind it leaves both sides feeling wounded. As Christian writer C.S. Lewis said, “See the Bear in his own den before you judge his conditions.”

Maybe that person absolutely hates that they are judgmental or gossipy. Maybe just like any other addict, they have to work each and every day to jump over their hurdle of their temptation to judge. Maybe their mom, or grandma, or family comes from a long line of being very judgmental and it’s all they’ve ever been around and have to work their tail end off to stay positive.

I judged judgmental people because I had, by accident, boxed them up and labeled them all the same. Gossips, pot stirrers, mean, etc. but the thing is no one person is the same. Each person has different life experiences, pains, and pasts shaping them. Lewis also says, “Don’t judge a man by where He is, because you don’t know how far He has come.”

Once I understood that hurt people, hurt people, it made me feel more sympathetic to people who spend so much time talking about others or tearing them down with judgment or gossip.

 

Love one another

We are to love judgers the same way we would an alcoholic or a sex or drug addict. To know that every person has a weakness, and that the quickest way to helping one another overcome our issues is to lay our judgment aside and learn to simply be there for one another, in love and in grace.

Scripture is very clear about judgment. I cringe now thinking that I used to hear lessons about judgment and somehow thought it wasn’t my burden to bear. God taught me to check my heart, know my worth, and never ever think that I had something mastered in my faith walk. The enemy loves to watch pride manifest in the areas that we think we have under control.

It is human nature to have certain people we connect to more than others in the body of Christ. But God has taught me that though that might be true, each and every person deserves to be treated with the same level of love and respect, even if it seems extremely hard to do so.

God gives us the ability to love deeper than we could have ever dreamed, and this applies even to those people who just seem to crawl under our skin. Unity is essential to the bride of Christ, and when we truly leave judgment at the door, it leaves a much more beautiful and whole picture of true Christ-like love on display.

 

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.  For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?  How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)

ODB: You Missed the Chance

October 27, 2015 

READ: 1 Corinthians 13 

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2

 

I heard the saddest words today. Two believers in Christ were discussing an issue about which they had differing opinions. The older of the two seemed smug as he wielded Scripture like a weapon, chopping away at the things he saw as wrong in the other’s life. The younger man just seemed weary of the lecture, weary of the other person, and discouraged.

As the exchange drew to a close, the older man commented on the other’s apparent disinterest. “You used to be eager,” he started, and then abruptly quit. “I don’t know what it is you want.”

“You missed the chance to love me,” the young man said. “In all the time you’ve known me, what has seemed to matter most to you is pointing out what you think is wrong about me. What do I want? I want to see Jesus—in you and through you.”

Had this been said to me, I thought, I would have been devastated. In that moment I knew the Holy Spirit was telling me there had been people I had missed the chance to love. And I knew there were people who couldn’t see Jesus in me either.

The apostle Paul tells us that love must be the underlying motive in anything we do; in everything we do (1 Cor. 13:1-4). Let’s not miss the next chance to show love.

— Randy Kilgore

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you today who it is you’ve missed the chance to love. Then ask Him to give you another opportunity. Start your conversation with these words: “I’m sorry . . .”


Love beats lectures every time.