When we are wronged, spoken falsely about, our character maligned and reputation smudged, how should we as Christians respond? What does the Word of God teach about this, especially when it comes to the arena of blogging?
There has been an issue of late where a dear man of God, Ken Silva, and his website were forced to go dark because of one complaint lodged against him by another blogger. This other blogger claimed he was slandered by Ken; IMHO, after reading all the documents I could find, he wasn't. This other blogger made a few mistakes: he never contacted Ken directly; he did not follow biblical guidelines for resolve; and he tried to deal with this by reporting Ken to an easily intimated web hosting company of his blog. The next thing you know, Ken's site is gone - sent to electron heaven.
I posted a comment about this on the blogger in question's website asking him to state specifically what the offense was and the words Ken used to describe him that he thought were slanderous. Not only did he not answer my polite and reasonable question, he deleted my comment. After a few other comments, he then closed comments on his thread.
As many of you know, I have had many bloggers say the most outrageous, egregious, and untrue statements about myself and my theology for years. Some do it with an unbridled reckless abandon as if they were a character in a comic book or something. Some react without thinking and are just plain foolish. Some do it to elevate their own self-worth. Some do it because I have challenged them biblically and out of embarrassment in not being able to defend their skewed theology... attack. And then some, in a godly attitude with cogent and meaningful dialogue say strong things because they were right and I needed to see another side of an issue. Regardless, whether from good or bad motives, I am grateful for all of it for the Lord has used it and continues to use it to conform me to Himself. Though I have to admit I have had my share of tears shed and sleepless nights over some of the very ugly commentary directed at me. On occasion, my own attorney would very much like "to minister" to some of these amateur journalists and theologues clothed in blogging rags, but I have instructed him otherwise. It doesn't serve the gospel or the ministry of God's Word to do so... does it? As my dear friend, Dr. John MacArthur, told me years ago, "don't spend your time defending yourself Steve. If you do, you will do nothing else. Defend the Word of God and His gospel and let the Lord take care of others and their opinions of you. Be teachable and thank the Lord for even their unkind and untrue words. Your reputation is not what is ultimately important, God's glory is." Great advice that I try to honor by God's grace.
So how should conflict about message and messenger biblically be handled in the blogosphere? Here are a few thoughts that I hope will prove helpful and be an encouragement to you.
1. Go to your brother privately
If there is an offense between two people of a personal nature, the offended one or the one doing the offending has the biblical duty to go to each other and to do so without delay. They should seek a quick and godly resolve. Hear the words of our Lord Jesus:
"So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison." -Matthew 5:23-25
2. Church discipline
If an offense or sin occurs between two believers in the Lord, they are first to go to each other and try to win their brother. If that one on one process fails, then they are to take two or three witnesses to confirm what has happened. Within these witnesses should be a pastor or elder of your church. If the party in sin doesn't "hear them" - meaning resolve the matter, then it is to be told to the church. This is not for revenge or retribution, but for repentance, reconciliation and resolve. Lastly, if the party in sin does not repent, then they are to be treated as a nonbeliever. Treated as such, not declared as such, but treated as such. So many people in a rush to judgment will declare someone is not saved and that is not the meaning nor the spirit of church discipline. How do you treat a nonbeliever? With respect, with Christlike love, with humility, and with boldness proclaiming the gospel to them. IOW, continually, lovingly, and with grace, respect and humility give them the gospel and call them to repentance to follow Christ. BTW, the only sin anyone is ever treated as a nonbeliever for is for lack of repentance. Whatever the offense might be, if they repent, all is forgiven and restoration may occur. This is one reason why commitment to a local church is so important. It is a protective and a proactive way to deal with sin and conflict and wrongs that can surface with other believers.
Listen to the words of Jesus:
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." -Matthew 18:15-20
3. Protect the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
The Apostle Paul says,
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." -Ephesians 4:1-3
After three great chapters of doctrine and theology, Paul begins the last three chapters as to the responsibility of our redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ. His command? Walk worthy to your calling. Where is this first evidenced? In the local church with other believers. And how is this manifested? With humility: (a small opinion of ourselves and a high view of God); gentleness: (taking the mistreatment, injustice and wrongs against us free from revenge, malice and retribution accompanied by doing acts of kindness to the very ones causing the offense trusting in God through it all in how He uses that situation to conform us to Christlikeness. It is the surrender of our rights.); patience: (endurance in the provocation until the healing comes.); and bearing with one another in love: (keeping the greater goal of our testimony in the Lord chief even while being misused by another.
IOW, live and walk in forgiveness and unfailing love. This takes grace for we are not strong enough to do this in and of ourselves.
4. Lastly, why not rather be wronged?
The Apostle Paul gives very clear instruction about how not to handle grievances with other believers in the Lord. Lawsuits are strictly forbidden. And in the case of the blogosphere, pursuing legal action, even if the case is not civil, to resolve a wrong is forbidden. "It is the glory of a man to overlook an offense" (Proverbs 19:11). "Love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8); IOW, it protects the scope of who has knowledge of another's failings. And we should demonstrate that kind of love not only to fellow believers in the Lord, not only to our neighbors, but to our enemies as well (Matt. 5:40-44).
Listen to Paul's strong and stern words for the church at Corinth:
When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! -1 Corinthians 6:1-8
Bringing it home
How does this effect us in the blogosphere, and in specific, how would one respond to the unfortunate incident brought against our brother Ken recently?
If someone writes an article about us where we feel we might have been mischaracterized, misrepresented or even slandered, go to that person first and settle it there. If still no resolve, go to your local pastor and have him handle this within the local church where he may even have to go and meet with another church on your behalf. Let us do all that we can as much as it depends on us to be at peace with all men (Roms. 12:18); especially those within the household of faith endeavoring to keep the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace. Lastly, if persistent God-honoring communication fails to produce resolve, you can trust the Lord and say it is better that I am wronged than I pursue my rights to be right and bring fracture and harm to the body of Christ. Your witness for the gospel and your life representing the Lord Jesus is more important than you being vindicated.
Some tips to help guard against slander and libel:
1. Speak the truth
2. Do your homework and research well; don't just vent, study to be approved
3. Document well and link accurately to corroborate your views
4. Develop your post and conclusions from the Word of God
5. Don't make it personal, stay on message
6. Check motives and be willing to immediately correct any wrongs
7. Debate, discuss, and dialogue; don't defame
Beloved, this little vaporous life we live here is not ultimately about us, it is all about Him and His glory. Living in forgiveness and Christlike love doesn't condone wrongs against us or minimize their impact or consequences. But it does mean we will be free from causing needless conflict, free from bitterness, anger, wrath, clamor and slander. Our little reputations and carefully cultivated bios are not what is the chief concern here.
Are we honoring God's Word? Are we willing to give up our rights to glorify Him? Is a blog worth dividing the body of Christ or protecting our wounded egos?