Tag Archives: slander

How to live Christianly in the world – Titus 3:1-8, Part 2

6 Aug

In the first post in this series on Titus 3:1-8, I introduced the series saying that so often we Christians talk about the good news of Jesus by focusing on its implications for life after death. While it does apply to the eternal realm for sure, what we notice in a letter like Titus, is that God cares greatly about how we live. In fact in Titus 3:1-2, Paul lists six ways that God wants Christians to live in the world.

First, we saw that God is concerned that Christians be subject to rulers and authorities. You can read that post here. Now Paul continues this line of thinking about God’s desires for how his people live, with what Paul says next about how Christians should live in in relation to all people.  Remember what I have been saying in this study through Titus about the reputation of the people on the Island of Crete?  They are wild and out of control.  Time and time again in Titus we have seen that Paul wants the Christians to be different.  In this post we are going to look at the next five ways Paul describes in Titus 3:1-2 that Christians are live God’s way in the world.

Next he says that Christians are to be obedient. 

Obedient to who or what?  Certainly to the rulers and authorities as he already said.  But there are plenty of other ways to be obedient.  First and foremost, we obey God.  And as long as what we are being asked to do is in line with God’s ways, we obey in other situations as well.  Children obey parents.  Employees obey employers.  Students obey your teachers.  Athletes obey your coaches.  Christians are known for being obedient.

After obedience, Paul says Titus is to remind the Cretan Christians to be ready to do what is good.  Are you seeing a thread here?  Christians are to be subject to authorities, obedient, ready to do what is good.  Christians will be very easy to spot, if they follow what Paul is teaching in the middle of a society that is unruly.

Often when I preach these messages at Faith Church, I use PowerPoint to illustrate them. As I was trying to find a picture to depict “doing good”, I learned that there is such a thing as International Good Deeds Day.  People all over the world give time to clean parks, plant trees and gardens, visit the elderly, or feed the hungry.  I thought that was amazing, something that we Christians should be participating in. But you know what? For Christians, every day should be Good Deeds Day. 

It is very easy to be self-focused in this world.  The busyness.  All the hours at work.  Just keeping up with dirty dishes and the laundry, keeping vehicles going, and then, those of you that have kids and all they have going on, all school, sports, and extra-curricular activities, and more!  We come to the end of most days exhausted.  When that happens, we can think we have no time for doing anything extra.  Doing good?  Many of us have house projects or yard work that we’d love to have time for, letting alone serving our community, volunteering, or reaching out to neighbors.  But Paul is saying that Christians are people who are ready to do what is good.  They will make a difference in society.   This is why we are so concerned about the concerns of social justice in our society.  Feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, housing the homeless, and finding the roots of injustice that may be causing these problems.  Roots of greed, racism, and so on, and we work to bring justice to them.  The work of mercy and justice is doing good.

Next Paul goes on and says that we slander no one.  Speak with kindness and gentleness and truth, and do not gossip.  Be committed to radical confidentiality.  It seems to me that this is an area that many Christians could dwell on.  Whether it is on social media, or face-to-face, it can be hard to control our tongues.  Christians should be known as people who have control over our tongues, even when we are hurt and offended, or even when we disagree with something. 

Very much related to that, Paul next says Christians are peaceable and considerate.  Christians should be peaceful, peace-loving, peace-making, people.  Our Anabaptist brothers and sisters, like the Mennonites, are really focused on this, and for good reason.  We can learn from them, because generally-speaking they have done deep study into peace-making and are much farther along than others.  We strive to make peace between genders, ethnicities, and generations. 

Finally, Christians show true humility to all.  This means not thinking more highly of yourself than you ought.  Look to the humility of Jesus.  His willingness to associate with people of low position, to be friends with sinners, not to be judgmental, but forgiving.  So in summary, in verses 1-2, Paul is saying, Christians, you will be so different in society because you will be so good.  You’ll be living like Jesus did.  Not exactly like he did, of course.  But you’ll stand out, in a good way.  Sure some people get grumpy at people who are trying to be good.  You’ll have that.  Kind, peaceable, humble people expect that, don’t let it get under their skin, and love those people anyway.  Not easy, I grant you, especially when the difficult people are from within your own family, friends or even church family.  But still we follow the example of Jesus in practicing kindness and humility to all.

5 church family killers

26 Jun

Photo by Shelby Miller on Unsplash

Yesterday our community learned that police apprehended a man who is accused of, 25 years ago, killing a local school teacher.  He has been living and working in our community all these years.  Here’s the freaky thing, he has a long career as a popular DJ, and he recently deejayed our daughter’s 6th grade end-of-year party hosted by her elementary school.  Undercover officers attended the party and were able to obtain a DNA sample giving them long-awaited evidence to confirm his involvement in the murder.  They later arrested him at his home without incident.  My wife and I read the news article with eyes wide.  There was a killer in our midst.

Today, as we continue studying what Peter has to say in his letter to Christians in the first century Roman Empire, he teaches us about 5 killers in the midst of church families, and he says they need to go.  If you want, go back and read the intro post from yesterday. Here’s the scary thing, though: the five church family killers could easily be within any of us.

Read 1 Peter 2:1-3 where Peter names the five: Malice, Deceit, Hypocrisy, Envy, Slander.

If we are to be a loving church family, all five of those family killers have to be discarded like dirty clothes, Peter says.  Let’s make sure we know exactly what they are so we can identify them in ourselves and clean them out.

First up is Malice.  Not a word we use too often.  But this word Peter used is defined as, “a feeling of hostility and strong dislike, with a possible implication of desiring to do harm—‘hateful feeling.’[1]  That is intense, right?  Feeling hostile toward someone?  Maybe even desiring to do them harm?  My first thought is “Woah…wait a minute Peter.  Are you serious?  People in a church family are not like that toward one another.  You’re starting us off way over the top here, Peter.”

But let’s face it.  When it comes to church, our feelings can run really deep.  In a culture that is changing rapidly, we want the church to be our safe place.  When the church starts to change, that can set off deep feelings of anger and stuff comes out of our lives that maybe we didn’t ever imagine we were capable of.  Rage and temper are powerful forces that many of us cannot control.

Peter is saying malice has to go.  Do you have those strong angry feelings toward anyone? Those feelings need to go.  Surrender your feelings to the Lord, repent, confess, ask forgiveness.  Don’t let them eat you up.  Malice has to go.

The next two are similar.  Deceit and Hypocrisy.  Deceit is defined as “to deceive by using trickery and falsehood.”[2]  This is lying.  Hypocrisy is defined as “to give an impression of having certain purposes or motivations, while in reality having quite different ones.”[3]  Normally when we think of a hypocrite, we think of a person who says one thing and does another.

No surprise here that hypocrisy and deceit are church family killers, right?

My wife, Michelle, is reading a book right now called Sacred Slow, and the author says that hypocrisy and deceit can be poison.  She says, “Physically most of us will never poison ourselves.  But mentally, most of us habitually poison ourselves.  “I’m unattractive.”  “I’m all alone.”  “I’m stupid.” “I’m worthless.”  “If only I were…”  “If only I wasn’t…”  “If only I hadn’t…”  These are poisonous thoughts which can ruin ourselves, our activities, and our relationships.”

We need to rid ourselves our deceit and hypocrisy first by telling ourselves the truth!  The author of Sacred Slow says we need to speak truth to ourselves regularly: “God made me, I am not alone, I have Jesus, I have _____ as a friend, God loves me unconditionally and I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

What we allow our minds to focus on becomes our truth, and that flows into our actions.  Dwell on who you are as a child of God.  View one another in your church family as children of God.  Peter says remove deceit and hypocrisy in the church family.

Fourth he brings up Envy.  This one is defined as a “state of ill will toward someone because of some real or presumed advantage experienced by such a person”[4]  That definition might sound complicated.  Basically, envy is jealousy.  Here’s an example: have you ever had bitter feelings because a person in your church family clearly makes more money than you and is able to have a bigger house, better vacations, and nicer cars?

Jealousy can happen when one person has a certain kind of family, and another person doesn’t.

Jealousy can happen when one person seems to have a lot of friends, or is invited to certain social functions, and another person is not.

We can be jealous of another person’s personality, sense of humor, attractiveness.

Peter says get rid of envy.

Finally, Peter mentions Slander which is “to speak against, often involving speaking evil of”[5]  Slander and malice go together.  Malice is the feeling of evil against another.  Slander is speaking in an evil way against or about another.  You might be a person prone to malice, where you feel strong feelings against another, but you are not a slanderer.  You wouldn’t go so far as to actually open your mouth and speak against them.  Slander involves another level of sin.  It is not only having strong feelings, but speaking them.  Gossip is very much related to this.

Peter says get rid of slander.

So there they are.  The five church family killers. Malice, Deceit, Hypocrisy, Envy, Slander.  That is a bad list!  These are really awful behaviors.  Peter wants the readers of his letter to be super clear: these things should have no part of a church family.  It would be easy to think, “Well, geez, Peter, those are really bad behaviors…why are you talking about them?  Wouldn’t it be super rare that Christians treat each other like that?”

Maybe.  Maybe not.

I think it is important that Peter clearly lists out what is not acceptable in a loving church family.  But more than likely, Peter is addressing issues that he actually heard about in churches.  So let’s pay attention to our church family.  Let’s call out these behaviors and work to stop them.  They should have no part of our fellowship, and no part of our individual lives.  Take off those dirty clothes!

But Peter doesn’t stop there.  Peter doesn’t just want the people to stop things.  He also wants them to start things.  Remove the poor behaviors, and make sure you add what?  Check back in tomorrow, and we’ll find out!

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 763. Print.
[2] Ibid. 758.
[3] Ibid: 765.
[4] Ibid: 759.
[5] Ibid: 432.

How to defeat temptation and discontentment – Luke 4:1-14

28 Jan

temptationIs there a certain area of your life where you regularly feel discontent?

Consider doing what Jesus did. Create a game plan to attack the temptation of discontent when it arises:

  • Step 1 – Choose a small portion that addresses the temptation.
  • Step 2 – Memorize it.
  • Step 3 – Review it over and over. Have it at the ready.
  • Step 4 – When you feel tempted or discontent, recite the verse.

This is exactly what Jesus did when he was tempted!

Let me give you a couple examples about how this might work in life:

Have a struggle with speaking out of attacking anger? Hurt others with your words? What are some scripture verses you could memorize that specifically address anger? When you are feeling that desire, that temptation within you to be angry, you can go back to that Scripture, quote it, and fight temptation! How about 1 Peter 3:8?: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”

Maybe your struggle is lust? Pornography? You could memorize Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Do you gossip? Slander? Talking about other people makes us feel better about ourselves…temporarily maybe, but it is so damaging to relationships. Proverbs has a bunch of verses that might strengthen you. Take a look at Proverbs 11:13: “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.”

How about jealousy? Or discontentment that manifests itself with overspending? Hebrews 13:5 is a great one: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’.”

But know this, quoting Scripture like Jesus did is not a Harry Potter magic spell that wipes out the temptation and makes life easy.

It can take practice. You might fail. The temptation could feel strong. The temptation might be within you, (as John reminds us: the flesh, pride of life, lust of eyes). You may be fighting yourself. It could be a tough battle that may go on and on multiple times over multiple days, months and years.

But keep fighting.

At the end of How Much Land Does a Man Need, Pahom, like I said, has made it back to his start post by sundown. But he had gone so far out, though, that after a long day of walking many miles, he needed to run the last few miles to make it back in time. He had to overexert himself.

As he made it back to the starting stake, with the sun going down, he reached his hand out, touched the stake, and fell on ground. Not just from exhaustion. He fell on the ground not in joy, not in relief, not in excitement. He fell dead of a heart attack.

In the end the only land he received was that space needed to bury him.

But Pahom’s fate does not have to be our fate.  Jesus shows us his way.  We can fight temptation with the Word of God, and we can fight it by depending on the Spirit to fill that emptiness. Unlike Pahom, we can learn to be content in the Spirit.

Though he is the son of God, Jesus is content to depend on the Spirit. Jesus is knowing and employing the Word of God. He could have used his own power, but instead he is an example for us. If we defeat temptation, it will not be on our own power. Depend on Spirit, employ the Bible.