43. The Cure of Evil-speaking

“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican” (Matthew 18:15-17).

“Speak evil of no man” says the apostle Paul in Titus 3:2. The command is s clear as “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13.) Few believers understand the command, even fewer obey it.

Evil-speaking is not the same lying or slandering another person (as some think), it is commonly known as backbiting, gossiping and spreading rumour. It is speaking evil about someone behind their back. This sin is rampant in our churches. How many can declare their innocence before God? 

It is a sin that is not so easily avoided; in fact it can quickly sweep us away like a flood. It feeds of off the faults of others. It religious and self-righteous pride. It is not easily avoided because it often disguises itself as zeal for God and concern for others.

Is there a way for evil-speaking be avoided? According to our text there is. 

Private Exhortation
We should go to the one in the wrong instead of ‘sharing’ the matter with others. We must be careful that we have a holy and humble attitude towards the person concerned. Our aim ought to be reconciliation rather than trying to make the offender feel guilty; therefore the spirit of love and gentleness is vital. Being full of pride and self-righteousness will only make the situation worse. We should bring before the person what the word of God says. In doing so we must acknowledge that our lives are being observed by the Judge of all the earth too.

The Lord commands that we face the person alone. We must not take further steps before this; otherwise we make ourselves as unrighteous as the one who has offended us. Speaking to others about the problem should be avoided, no matter how ‘burdened’ we feel about it. We ought to be burdened, but not desirous of denouncing the person. If we go to others first, it only proves that we have hatred in our hearts towards our brother in Christ. We will never have peace in our hearts if we go any other way about this.

Evil-speaking is a deadly poison. It is never justifiable to gossip and backbite.

Taking a Witness
What if the offender refuses to listen to us and become enraged? Sometimes gentle reproof does not work, only then it is necessary to take an observer with us. The witness should be of a gentle spirit too. This person must not be biased towards our point of view, instead he must be impartial. At this point four things should be done:-

1. Reveal why it is now important for a witness to be present.

2. Talk about the problem itself.

3. Show that the reproof is righteous.

4. Repeat the need for reconciliation.

The witness can then testify that everything was done correctly if the matter has to be taken further.

Taking it to the Church
If all our attempts for reconciliation are rejected, then we have no other choice but to present the facts before the whole church. This is our own church; do not spread the details to members of other congregations. 

Go to the leadership of the church first. It is their duty to judge the situation and to openly reprove the offender if needed. At this point we have done all that is required of us.

If the guilty party still refuses to be reconciled, we are under no obligation towards them, except that we entrust them to God in prayer. We do not have to speak to them any more, in fact they are to be treated as “Gentiles and Tax-collectors”, that is, do not fellowship with them. Leave them to the Lord, do not seek revenge, but continue to love them in the Lord. Remember though, we still owe them common courtesy and kindness as occasions arise.

It is our duty to refuse to listen to any evil report about another person. If there were no listeners, there would be no gossip. The receiver of stolen goods is as bad as the thief. As soon as an evil report begins to sound in our ears, let us put a halt to it immediately. 

If we happen to be the one to whom the wrong has been done, then follow the steps that the Lord commanded. If we share our ‘burden’ then we are making others partakers of our sins. We must shun evil-speaking, and “Follow peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14.) 

How quickly difficulties would be cleared up if we would love “one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22)! The world would have to take note of how we love one another. Is this not the kind of spirit Christ prayed for? In John 17:20-21 He prays, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.”

May the Lord enable us to love one another in word, in truth and in action, just as Christ has loved us.