What is 'slander', and when does it become a sin?

Hello,
I’ve become convicted by the Holy Spirit recently. I have been posting about my encounters with my bible teacher on this forum, and other forums and I am a little concerned that I have been slandering them. Is it okay to speak about people without their permission, like to talk about their actions or teachings behind their backs?

I’m not sure about this, but I think slander is something more serious, like publicly shaming someone. If I called my teacher a liar, a murderer, and named him on this forum, when he was none of those, would this be a better definition of slander… or is this defamation? Or the same thing?

The bible treats slander as a serious offense, as is all sin. Matt 15:19; Rom 1:30; Eph 4:31; 1 Timothy 6:4-5; Col 3:5-10

So, have I been ‘slandering’ my teacher by telling people about their teachings? Perhaps it depends on my heart when doing so…

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First, slander is false accusation. Calling things as you see them is not necessarily slander.

Second, making accusations against an unidentified individual cannot turn people’s opinions against him - which is the point of slander.

Also, you have appeared rather fairminded in your various concessions of possibly being wrong and seeking guidance on Connect.

I commend you for your sensitivity, but I don’t think you’ve crossed an ethical line in your struggle with a difficult question.

I hope this helps you.

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Hi Hayden,
I have seen some of your posts on this issue and even responded to them. I don’t think you have slandered anyone.

Slander has two components - 1) it is spreading false information / accusation about someone and is done with 2) the motive to denigrate or put down the one being talked about. It is usually done with a mean spirit.

On the other hand, we are called to search scripture and judge teachings to see that we are in line with the truth and discussions to clarify this are a part of learning and growing. The apostle Paul, at times, openly opposed some teachings when they were blatantly false, even when they were from someone as prominent as Peter. At the same time, we are called to do this in love and mutual respect, making sure that the we are not misunderstanding the intentions and motives of the person we are questioning.

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Thanks for both of your responses! :slight_smile:

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@hluke I agree with both @jlyons and @tonyabthomas that you have not slandered your Bible teacher as long as you have not spoken falsehoods about him. I wonder if you may also be concerned about whether you are gossiping. Gossip differs from slander. Slander is untrue; gossip may or may not be true, but it can still hurt its subject even if true. Slander is a subset of gossip. Gossip happens when you say things about the subject to someone else that you would not directly say to the subject. This usually harms the subject because it usually distorts others’ opinions about the subject. What we say about the subject can literally be true, but usually is not the complete truth, and is probably not other people’s business anyway. The subject is unable to defend himself from whatever false impressions may occur. This can happen privately, without the subject’s knowledge, or publicly, with the subject’s knowledge. Social media like Facebook or Twitter are a massive gossip manufactory.

I now proceed into a minefield of potential misunderstanding. Please understand that I think very highly of you for your spirit of concern and that I intend the very best with my following words. Please feel free to ask me for any clarification that you may need.

You have not gossiped about your Bible teacher. Your Bible teacher publicly spoke the things that concern you, and you have the right to ask others for input about those things. Wise people do not publicly say what they do not want the public to know. The tricky part is that what does not start as gossip can become gossip. It can become gossip if the subject remains unable to defend him- or herself against whatever impression others may develop about him or her and the gossiper does not seek mutual understanding—and, if necessary, reconciliation—with the subject. If, for example, you do not use the wisdom that you have gleaned from your inquiries here in order to dialog with your Bible teacher about your concerns, then you may be gossiping. If you dialog with your teacher and find that you have misunderstood his or her statements, then you may be wise to post updates on your topics here so that we can correct our impression of your Bible teacher. Mutual understanding and reconciliation must be in your view at all times.

We all need to pray for each other in this matter. It is so easy for even the best of us to gossip and even slander without realizing it. I constantly fight this battle myself. I am married, and I have had to tell my wife that I will not talk about certain things that happen at work because I do not want to gossip. I have also been the victim of gossip and have suffered a gossipper’s wrath for exposing the duplicity. This can be really tough, but both my wife and my coworkers have told me that they know that they can trust me because of it. God will bless you, too.

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Thanks for your helpful response. Your distinction between gossip and slander is concise, and your examples provided are helpful to understand this concept in a mature life scenario. I now see how the term gossip is closer to what I thought I was doing, even though they might be related.

I completely agree with this. It’s interesting that one can read the same bible and draw different conclusions; however, as noted by the teacher, to find an answer to a question we have from the bible, we should find that answer in the bible. This is where the misunderstanding began. As I elaborated in the other forum, finding and answer to a question from the closest source is certainly a good thing to practice, but viewing the text in context is more crucial. And indeed, when one bible doctrine is so widely accepted such as ‘salvation through faith’, then an appropriate conclusion can be drawn to it’s validity. It’s also true that just because a majority agree with something, it doesn’t mean it’s correct, it’s a perspective that’s vastly accepted, but not necessarily valid. Islam believe that Jesus was not crucified, and that Mohammed is the final prophet of God, but if this is true such as they claim, then Jesus couldn’t have been crucified by pilate, and Christianity must be false. I need a lecture on Truth myself, and I’m going off on a tangent…

It certainly is! Ps 133:1. Prayer helps this immensely. It builds a loving and humble atmosphere of learning.
I spoke to them again on Monday about faith, justification, and then salvation, and I made some progress. Asking them to read certain verses, and then interpret the meaning on surface level helped this. So I got them to confess that we are saved by grace through faith, and that it is the Spirit which helps us produce good works, to which they became inquisitive about. However, since they have taught this for months now, it will be difficult to swallow the pride pill and start clean. So, humble disagreement looks more likely than mutual understanding.

Is 55:8; John 18:38, 14:6

Sorry I couldn’t respond earlier. I had somewhat of a fast from this forum.

I really appreciate your wisdom in your response!

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