Biblical Guidelines for Social Media

At long last, the document, Biblical Guidelines for Social Media has arrived. A special thanks to Jason Storms for helping to write this and my lovely bride, Kendra, who helped to edit it.

We believe this document can help Christians as they negotiate through the maze of modern technology. We pray it glorifies God and benefits his people as they communicate through social media. If you find any merit, please pass it on in your sphere of influence. Thanks!

Biblical Guidelines for Social Media

Preamble

Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.  But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector (Matthew 18:15-17).

We live in a time when technology is emerging faster than the church can comprehend, balance, or integrate . For many, the rush of new technology, especially as it pertains to social media (social networking sites, message boards, microblogging, YouTube, and Instagram), is speeding past our ability to critically evaluate our communications and apply biblical standards.

According to Pew Research data, ninety-two percent of teens report going online daily. Seventy-one percent of teens use more than one social networking site. Facebook is the most popular platform for teens, with the median number of “friends” at three hundred. And it’s not only teens on social media. Nearly three quarters of adults online use social networking sites. Social media is capturing the time, the attention, and even the souls of our children. Adults appear to have similar struggles. Far too many mishandle social media. Much of what happens in online communication dishonors the Lord, taints our witness to the unbelieving world, and gives place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27). Galatians 5:15 warns, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

Social media can be a powerful platform for global evangelism. It is a venue, which can glorify God, edify the saints, and convict the lost. However, there are certain personal, church, and ministry communications that should not be shared on social media. It is not the best venue for these important exchanges. Much of what is published on social media would be better handled in a private setting. Social media has helped to blur the lines between appropriate public and private interactions.

The Holy Scriptures, on the other hand, bring light and clarity. They are sufficient for all of life, faith, and practice. It is there we discover God’s standards for communication. The time has come for Christians to reconsider their interactions through social media. With full assurance in the sufficiency of Scripture, Operation Save America challenges Christians to serious self-examination concerning our conduct by means of Facebook and other social media sites (Psalm 26:2; Galatians 6:4).

With that in mind, OSA submits the following for all Christians to consider before God.

Whereas, we live in a day where critical thinking is diminishing, we must guard against emotional driven responses in our consumerist and media saturated culture…

Whereas, we are a culture that spends large segments of our time on social media…

Whereas, many relationships are conceived, nurtured, and sustained entirely through social media…

Whereas, written language, especially internet slang, can create an informal and hasty conversation, we are prone to misinterpret emotion, demeanor, body language, and other communicative nuances that are not discernible through social media…

Whereas, people tend to have a sudden sense of “courage” when sitting in their home in front of their computers and write things they would never say face to face, the normal, Biblical and decent principles of respectful communication are ignored…

Whereas our Christian testimony and witness is precious, we ought not to taint it frivolously or callously via social media…

Whereas, we are called to love the brethren and “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) before the watching world, we ought to guard our conduct, attitudes and comments on social media…

Whereas, our Lord has told us that we will all give account on the day of judgment for every idle word we have spoken…

Therefore, we institute the following biblical principles to guide our social media use:

 

Communicate clearly. Ask questions, listen, and explain yourself clearly. When you are communicating information, be careful to define your terms. Make sure your audience understands what you’re trying to say by the words you are using. If debates get heated, avoid ad hominem attacks. Do not resort to calling people, especially brethren, derogatory names.

When it’s your turn to receive information, don’t neglect to ask questions in order to understand the writer. Don’t be presumptuous. Take time to assess the other person’s understanding of the subject matter, terminology etc… Many communication problems arise when we assume our listeners understand “where we are coming from.” More often than not they do not. “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19).

Be careful. Approach controversial subjects with caution. How much trouble is stirred by a flippant attitude towards important subjects? How often do we say things or others say things to us that we would never communicate face to face? Avoid being flippant while posting on important subject matters. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Proverbs 18:2).

Don’t post anything controversial if you are in a hurry. As the old military saying goes, “Undue haste makes waste.”

Pray before you post anything controversial. This is all the more important if you consider your posting as a ministry to others. “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Define your terms. This bears repeating. The majority of online disagreements involve both sides talking past each other as neither attempts to understand what the other actually means.

Love your neighbor as yourself. Don’t attack or embarrass a brother or sister if you can deal with your differences privately. More often than not, our comments can be better handled in a private setting. Don’t let pride motivate you to uncover a brother or sister unnecessarily in public discourse. “Hatred stirs up strife: but love covers all sins” (Proverbs 10:12).

Go the extra mile to communicate humbly and graciously. Before hitting send, reread your post from the other person’s perspective to see if genuine humility comes across. It is important we avoid coming across like an arrogant know it all. Remember, “God resists the proud but gives grace unto the humble” (I Peter 5:5).

Give the benefit of the doubt to the writer rather than to assume the worst in intentions. Just as we have all had others misinterpret our tone and intention, we have to be careful not to do the same to others. Assume the best and give grace, until proven otherwise. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

If you are getting angry and irritated, STOP. Save your work. Revisit it later. You may find you don’t even want or need to respond. Perhaps someone else has communicated better or the writer clarified their comments. You may find they weren’t saying what you thought they were saying to begin with. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians. 4:6).

Don’t drown your seed. Allow time for the seed-planting process to work. Once you’ve made a strong point, let it settle. If it is initially resisted, do not bow up and try to force feed the seed or drown it with a water hose. Let the truth settle and relax. Folks may resist outwardly while inwardly chew on and wrestle with what you have already stated. Give time for the Holy Spirit to affirm the truth of God’s Word. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7).

 Weigh criticisms before you respond. There is often at least some merit in many criticisms. If God can rebuke a wayward prophet by a donkey, he can even use our enemies to reveal our sins and character flaws. Take time to receive and consider them before the Lord. It is important to resist a knee-jerk defensive response. It only serves to pour more fuel on the fire. “He that refuses instruction despises his own soul: but he that hears reproof gains understanding.” (Proverbs 15:32)

Private message personal communications or corrections. If or when a clash begins, your first instinct should be to private message rather than to engage in public debate. Check your pride at the door and take personal issues with brethren into a private arena. God’s Word is clear, “Go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)

In a discussion turned argument stop and ask yourself if you are just trying to win the argument or are you trying to win the person. Check your heart early and often in the discussion. Philippians 2:3 remind us, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”

If we do the above, social media can be a great tool for exalting Christ, communicating truth, touching hearts, and changing minds. If we don’t, we risk dishonoring our Lord, tainting our witness, sowing seeds of discord, and giving place to the devil.

Just as much as God hates the hands that shed innocent blood, he also hates those who sow discord among the brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19). We must not allow our common adversary to separate, divide, and conquer the brethren. When it comes to social media, as with all relationships, Augustine stated a good proposition, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” This is a good rule of thumb to remember as we communicate on social media.

Scripture Passages Concerning Communications.

 Though these passages are not exhaustive, they do grant some revelation on what God thinks about the importance of human communications.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalms 19:14).

“You love all devouring words, You deceitful tongue” (Psalms 52:4).

“All day they twist my words; All their thoughts are against me for evil” (Psalms 56:5).

“For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips, Let them even be taken in their pride, and for the cursing and lying which they speak” (Psalms 59:12).

“Who sharpen their tongue like a sword, And bend their bows to shoot their arrows-bitter words” (Psalms 64:3).

“Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

“For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool’s voice is known by his many words” (Ecclesiastes 5:3).

“For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7).

“You are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth” (Proverbs 6:2).

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).

“A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36, 37).

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).

“Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14).

“For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2).

“Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; Cause me to understand wherein I have erred” (Job 6:24).

“My lips will not speak wickedness, Nor my tongue utter deceit” (Job 27:4).

“Who have said, ‘With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us'” (Psalms 12:4).

“He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend” (Psalms 15:3).

“Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit” (Psalms 34:13).

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23).

“Their tongue is an arrow shot out; It speaks deceit; One speaks peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, but in his heart he lies in wait” (Jeremiah 9:8).

“Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit; The poison of asps is under their lips” (Romans 3:13).

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless” (James 1:26).

“Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:5, 6, 8).

“With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9, 10).

“For He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit” (1 Peter 3:10).

“Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, And whoever spreads slander is a fool” (Proverbs 10:18).

“And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not” (1 Timothy 5:13).

“Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases” (Proverbs 26:20).

“Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15)

 

Here is a companion document that addresses some of the same issues. A Special thanks to Dr. Kenneth Talbot from Whitefield Theological Seminary for pass this on to us.

A Declaration on the Ninth Commandment as it Relates to Slander through the Medium of the Internet

 

Adopted by the 2008 General Assembly

 

Commission:

 

The issue concerning the use of the internet and the potential for slander has continued to come before this body and its presbyteries. Therefore the following positional paper has been adopted to give instruction on the use of the internet in dealing with issues that are raised on websites by non-members and members of this denomination.

 

Preface :

 

The modern term “blogging” derives its name from “blog” (short for web log) which is a website where entries are written by various individuals in chronological order but displayed in reverse chronological order. Since the invention of the internet and its subsequent development, many households in America today have access to a computer and the means to connect to the internet. The Wikipedia explains blog or blogging as such: Blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (artblog), photographs (photoblog), sketchblog, videos (blog), music (MP3 blog), or audio.

 

According to the latest research there are almost 100 million blog sites being used and monitored daily. The emergence of blogging has brought a range of legal and ethical liabilities. One area of concern is the issue of bloggers releasing proprietary or confidential information. Another area of concern is blogging as it relates to the defamation of the good name and character of various individuals.

 

Doctrine:

 

The Westminster Divines have declared the following concerning the Ninth Commandment in the Larger Catechism:

 

Q143: Which is the ninth commandment?

 

A143: The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. [1] Exod. 20:16;

 

Q144: What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?

 

A144: The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man,[1] and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own;[2] appearing and standing for the truth;[3] and from the heart,[4] sincerely,[5] freely,[6] clearly,[7] and fully,[8] speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice,[9] and in all other things whatsoever;[10] a charitable esteem of our neighbors;[11] loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name;[12] sorrowing for,[13] and covering of their infirmities;[14] freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces,[15] defending their innocency; [16] a ready receiving of a good report,[17] and unwillingness to admit of an evil report,[18] concerning them; discouraging talebearers,[19] flatterers,[20] and slanderers;[21] love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth;[22] keeping of lawful promises;[23] studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.

 

Commentary:

 

The Westminster Confession Of Faith of 1647 {the standard of systematic Biblical doctrine for the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly) has much to say regarding what is commanded and forbidden in the ninth commandment. Considering The Larger Catechism (LC) Q 144 and Q 145, we will see that the Divines went into great detail regarding the full teaching of this commandment.

 

Considering LC Q 144: “What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?”, the answer details the Biblical teaching found in each proposition upon Holy Scriptures. A: The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely and of good report.”

 

We begin by looking at each section in detail beginning with the first: “The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor as well as our own. This section demonstrates the principle of keeping and promoting truth between men especially as it relates to preserving our own and others’ good name. All conversations, regardless of media, (oral or written) ought to be carried out in a truthful manner, preserving the truth and the good name of all parties.

 

Continuing, the Divines write: “appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and full, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice and in all other things whatsoever”; This particular instruction makes clear that the requirement must appear, and stand in behalf of the truth, for truth’s sake, and is immediately followed by the requirement of sincerity— that all our communications must be “from the heart”— that is, free from deceit, hypocrisy, or ulterior motive, in keeping with Psalm 15:2 “He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. 3 He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend”.

 

Therefore, our words must be sincere, spoken freely, and with clarity (without insinuation, confusion, and devoid of a manner, or intonation that hides or blurs the truth). Observe also that our conversations and/or communications must be truthful in matters concerning judgment and justice. Truth-telling and the giving true testimony is the God-ordained means of arriving at justice in the matter of judgment. Let us remember the Biblical principle that a witness or testimony is only taken as true on the basis of at least two witnesses: meaning, it must be two who can testify with the same clarity as to the actuality of the matter. This principle is not only for “legal or court testimony” but also “in all other things whatsoever”.

 

The Divines continue by stating: “a charitable esteemof our neighbors”; showing that the Scriptures require the disposition of the mind must be first and foremost “charitable”. They continue this teaching by expanding on this charitable disposition, saying, “loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name;” We must always put forward a posture of love to our neighbors, to desire a good name for them, and to rejoice in that good name. However, this is not enough because our Catechism then goes on to require of us a: “sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities”; This requirement is difficult, but it is founded upon the lawful principle of love for our neighbor and concern for his good name. Rather than exposing his infirmities through sinful speech to others, or criticizing him and defaming his good name, either publicly or privately, our love must cover his infirmities. While it is our duty to humbly and privately reprove and warn him of his sin and help him to seek repentance, we must use great care when speaking to others to protect their reputation. This is why the Divines used the word “covering”.

 

They make reference to two Scriptures that teach this very clearly. Proverbs 17:9 “He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.” and 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

 

They continue their answer by stating: “freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency”. It is our duty to acknowledge the gifts given to others by God and the graces that they display in their lives. We are required to defend them when they are falsely accused. Defending those who are innocent is our duty at all times; however, the inference here is greater because even when we know their infirmities and shortcomings we are to remain constant in their defense, and avoid communicating their faults to others! The Divines continue: “a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them.”

 

It is much easier to accept a good report concerning our neighbor than an unwillingness to receive an evil report concerning them. Many times, in our weakness, it is easier to receive an evil report of them than a good report, and then compound that sin by repeating the evil to someone else. This is exactly why the Divines say we must be unwilling to receive an evil report.

 

Let’s continue in their teaching: “discouraging tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers;” It is our duty to discourage any conversation and/or attitude we might see in others, or ourselves, which does not edify the body of Christ as the Spirit of God, through the Apostle Paul required in: Ephesians 4:29 “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

 

The Divines continue: “love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth; keeping of lawful promises;” When wrongfully accused we do have the right to defend ourselves. However, it is not a requirement, especially when a previous covenant has been made between individuals which would keep us from defending ourselves. We are required to keep our covenant promises and not break them, even if it causes us hurt and gives us grief.

 

In conclusion Divines say: “studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.” This is supported by what the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”

 

Our life’s example will demonstrate that what we meditate on will be witnessed by what we practice in our daily lives. Having first addressed the positive statement of the Ninth Commandment’s requirement the Divines continue by asking what is forbidden.

 

LC Q 145: What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?

 

A145: The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own,[1] especially in public judicature;[2] giving false evidence,[3] suborning false witnesses,[4]wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth;[5] passing unjust sentence,[6] calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked;[7] forgery,[8] concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause,[9] and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves,[10] or complaint to others;[11] speaking the truth unseasonably,[12] or maliciously to a wrong end,[13] or perverting it to a wrong meaning,[14] or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice;[15] speaking untruth,[16] lying,[17] slandering,[18] backbiting,[19] detracting,[20] tale bearing,[21] whispering,[22] scoffing,[23] reviling,[24] rash,[25] harsh,[26] and partial censuring;[27] misconstructing intentions, words, and actions;[28] flattering,[29] vainglorious boasting,[30] thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others;[31] denying the gifts and graces of God;[32] aggravating smaller faults;[33] hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession;[34] unnecessary discovering of infirmities;[35] raising false rumors,[36] receiving and countenancing evil reports,[37] and stopping our ears against just defense;[38] evil suspicion;[39] envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any,[40] endeavoring or desiring to impair it,[41] rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy;[42] scornful contempt,[43] fond admiration;[44] breach of lawful promises;[45] neglecting such things as are of good report,[46] and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering: What we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.

 

Here, as with the other parts of the Decalogue, the procedure of the Divines was to begin with what is required in the Commandments, and to finish with what is forbidden. This wise, comprehensive and logical method of instruction has proven profitable to all who have sought to understand their daily practical duty under the Law of God. We will not cover all that the Divines taught concerning what was forbidden in the Ninth Commandment, but will comment only on those which deal specifically with the subject at hand. We begin with the basic principle that we ought to protect our neighbor’s good name.

 

In applying this principle, we must not prejudice the minds of our brethren against others in such a way that would lead to the defamation of our neighbor’s good name. Consequently, we must not disclose anything to others who have no reasonable interest in a matter of sin, or of supposed sin, thus clouding objectivity and leading to the surmising of evil. Further, a Christian must never have a haughty or high minded attitude when others’ names are being defamed, and ought never to derive secret satisfaction from an evil report concerning his neighbor. It should also be noted that Christians are forbidden to conceal the truth, to keep silent, or to withhold Biblical correction, according to place and station, if they witness their neighbor’s good name being unjustly defamed. We are also forbidden to make complaints to others who are not a party to the issue. Christians are not permitted to speak the truth inappropriately, or to speak the truth maliciously to a wrong end, perverting the matter to a wrong meaning.

 

We are also forbidden to speak or write in a way that brings in doubtful and equivocal expressions which prejudices the truth and justice or would cause others to be swayed to such a prejudicial view. This type of speech would include sinful hyperbole and ridicule. The Divines also pointed out that we are forbidden to speak untruthfully, because this is tantamount to lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, tale bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, or harsh.

 

The Scriptures define as sinful any unjust censuring or condemning of an individual wherein he might be deprived of his good name and reputation, unless the accused is permitted proper means and due process to ensure a right and proper defense. Also we are to be careful not to misrepresent our intentions, words, and actions to the detriment of our neighbor by the use of flattering, vainglorious boasting, consequently then, thinking or speaking too highly or too shamefully of ourselves or others. We must also be careful that we do not become involved in exaggerating smaller faults, and then hiding, excusing, or justifying such sins. When appealing for a confession, we are not to reveal further infirmities as a means for inflicting additional injury on our neighbor. We are not to be engaged in raising false rumors, receiving and approving sinful reports, or refusing to listen to a just defense in the proper venue as ascribed by God’s Word.

 

Christians must avoid raising suspicions about their neighbor. They must not be found rejoicing in the disgrace and ill repute that has been brought to bear on those who have been the object of said sins by those seeking to injure their good name and reputation. Therefore, a Christian is always required to follow the proper God-ordained method of dealing with such issues, and those in authority are duty bound to insure that all procedure be conducted according to the Scriptures. To allow such a sin to continue would be a sin for us.

 

God has set up appropriate means within the church or civil government where these matters should be handled with proper procedures that are not open for sinful, public interactions, where the use of false and/or misleading language could lead to a perverting of the truth or use words that promote misunderstanding, thus leaving people with the impression that there has been sin committed when there is no true evidence of such.

 

Whereas, those who promote false or unsubstantiated reports concerning their neighbors, spread such reports which are uncertain, only partially true, are guilty of violating the Ninth Commandment and are called talebearers, backbiters, and slanderers who have by such design, determined to injure the good name of their neighbors. Often they begin their malicious reports by prefacing their statements with the pretense of a great respect to the person whom they are about to speak against, and acting surprised at the information they are about to divulge then offering a pretense that they are sorry for what they are about to relate. This is most usually accompanied by the stated hope that this person will come to repentance, while, on the other hand, they make it their business to spread the gossip among those who are willing to imbibe in their sinful behavior.

 

However, they will soon find themselves without a good reputation as they are endeavoring to ruin the reputation of another. Often they do this by aggravating an individual’s faults or representing them as worse than they really are. Such persons propagate slander by reporting the bad actions of an individual and at the same time overlooking their good actions, rather than setting the balance over-against the other. They often overlook their own past sins and they come with the pretence of a self-righteous individual. Some will even confess to their own past or present sins, excusing their actions with little or no condemnation on themselves while convicting others for their perceived wrongs. Sometimes they will become defensive when their own faults or sins are pointed out and will lash-out at those who have only pointed out what is obvious to all. However, it is not only those who propagate slander in this manner who are guilty of violating the Ninth Commandment, but those who are willing to listen and to further propagate the lies being told.

According to the Ninth Commandment we also sin when we listen to malicious reports rather than rebuking and reproving those who publicly or privately make a practice of giving malicious reports out of a sinful desire to do damage to the good name of their neighbor.

 

Further, slandering a man’s good name, even if some of the things reported are true is not the Biblical method of reclaiming such erring individuals. Such public actions are contrary to the Scriptures and therefore never profitable. We must not add sin to sin, nor do evil that (supposed) good may come. By endeavoring to remove the good name of our neighbor and thus, endanger the loss of our own reputation, we must not delude ourselves into thinking that we can bring glory to Christ’s kingdom by such violations of His Law.

 

In Leviticus 19:16-17 there is a prohibition to slander and gossip, wherein the law demands that: “You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. 17 ‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him.” Thus gossip or slander (or any of the other sins mentioned) is forbidden by the Law of God. This is the negative requirement of the Ninth Commandment.

The positive requirement is that we are responsible to speak the truth at all times, and to correct those slanders and gossips by bringing them before a lawful court which God has ordained to hear such accusations, civil or ecclesiastical. We are implored in Proverbs 25:9-10 “Debate your case with your neighbor himself, and do not disclose the secret to another; lest he who hears it exposes your shame, and your reputation be ruined.”

 

Romans 12:14-21: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peacefully with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; If he thirsts, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

 

Therefore,  Christians  may  be  involved  in  the  use  of  the  internet  as  long  as  they  do  not  violate  the  Law  of  God  (such  as  the  discussion  of  theological  and  practical  issues),  but  avoiding  the  sins  enumerated  above.  However,  they  are  forbidden  by  the  Ninth  Commandment  to  so  participate  in  web-­‐logs  in  which  the  authors’   or   contributors’   do manifest   a   hatred   of   others   through   slander   and   gossip,   even   upon   the  pretense  of  humility,  excusing  their  actions  with  feigned  concern  for  their  reclamation,  do  sin  against  them  and  against  God.

 

Further,  the  Ninth  Commandment  permits  those  who  have  been  injured  publicly  by slander  and  gossip,  by  the  unrighteous  actions  of  those  who  seek  to  defame  their  good name,  to  publicly  defend  their  cause  for  establishing  the  truth,  and  or  to  defend  others who  have  been  so  injured.  For  this  reason  such  actions  are  considered  just  and  good according  to  the  Law  of God.