Assassination of Character
Saturday, January 30, 2010

 

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”  (Ex. 20:16)

 

                I have a dear friend, who undoubtedly will read this, so I ask his grace as I share his story.  Many years ago, his son was abducted by his ex-spouse.  And although he had legal custody of the boy, he was never able to get his son back.  Tragedy after tragedy followed in the legal battles over the little boy.  My friend was particularly vulnerable because he was a pastor.  One day, in the midst of the emotional chaos of this warfare, he was called by his regional minister to come into the headquarters.  There my friend was confronted with a lie.  His ex-spouse had accused him of abuse.  The minister was saddened he had to ask the question, but responsibility required he do so.  “Is this true?” he asked.  “Of course not,” my friend replied.  “But,” he said, “the sad thing is, from this point on, whenever you seem me you will think to yourself, ‘I wonder.’”

                Therein lays the tragedy of violation of the 9th commandment.  Once a word is spoken against another human, doubt is cast in listeners’ minds.  And forever that person is tainted.  In our lawsuit world, this happens all the time.  A person can wage a verbal war against another without any legal or financial consequence, destroy that person’s reputation, and walk away the victor.  While the person who was lied about, lies wallowing in the wake of despair.    Because this has happened to me and to my friends, I may take this violation more personally than others.

                To fully understand this command and why God would place it in the top ten rules of cultural harmony, we must understand the fundamental basis from which it is given.  That basis is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  And Jesus goes to great lengths to make sure we understand our neighbor is all human beings that God has created.  And you see, the only way we can make them not our neighbor is to de-humanize them.  That is the fundamental basis of racial and class warfare.  De-humanize those who do not look like you, act like you, in the same financial bracket as you, have the same education as you, or think like you and then you can be free to pile all kinds of abuses against them.  That was Hitler’s tactic.  Dehumanize the Jews so they can be easily destroyed.  That is Planned Parenthood’s tactic.  Dehumanize the unborn, so they can be easily destroyed.  That is the health care debate.  Dehumanize old people, so they can be easily destroyed.

                But there is a tragedy worse than death.  That is, destroying a life through gossip, slander, and outright lies, and then making that person live in the destruction.  I have seen pastors’ lives destroyed by lies of congregations.  I have seen youth pastors’ lives destroyed by amorous young people.  I have seen respected businessmen destroyed because of false charges.  We are all witnessing currently the reputation of a former president being daily shattered in the public forum, to make present incumbents look better.  Neighbors’ reputations are destroyed and today with little consequence.  In reality, this kind of assassination is far more brutal than murder, for the assassinated must live on with a tarnished life.

                This command has, in recent times, been relegated to “you shall not lie.”  But that is not what the command says.  It says you shall not lie about your neighbor.  For if you can do that, destroying their future and their reputation, how easy it would be to take their life, their spouse, or their money.  Maybe of all the “neighbor” commands, this is one we take most lightly and because we do, murder, adultery, and thievery is rampant in our culture.


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Victor, ID 83455
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