In October of 2013, twelve-year-old Rebecca of Lakeland, Florida, took her life after being bullied by several other teens. A series of events, including malicious cyber messages to and about Rebecca, drove her to a tragic end. Even after her death, one of the girls callously admitted she had bullied Rebecca, bragged about it, and stated, in crass terms, that she couldn’t care less about what happened.
While the above might sound shocking, it has become commonplace in our society. In fact, in differing degrees, it is common even in Christian circles. Believers of all ages allow themselves to participate in verbal bullying, and many of us enable perpetrators by listening to things that should never be spoken. The Bible gives us an answer about how every godly Christian should respond to vicious words spoken against someone else. God tells us in Proverbs 25:23, “The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.” The word “backbiting” means to attack the character or reputation of a person who is not present or, to speak slanderously of one who is absent. Oftentimes, one who is backbiting is given an ear with the rationalization that the perpetrator is a friend who needs a sounding board because they are hurting. The listener believes counsel can be given. But such concepts are contrary to the instruction of God’s Word. Malicious talk about someone who is not present doesn’t seek to solve the problem. It is an exercise in sin. Our response should be to let the guilty party know with certainty that it is wrong and that we want no part of such conduct. In II Corinthians 12:20-21, the Apostle Paul warned he would give an even stronger response to those who backbite or slander another. He would publicly “bewail many.” What do you think? Would confronting the backbiter in God’s way deter such sinful actions and perhaps aid in the health of the local church?
If you have been guilty of backbiting another, this is your opportunity to glorify your Savior. We suggest you stop this action immediately and, whether past or present, apologize, without excuse, to the one you victimized. When you hear backbiting, choose to respond as instructed above. You will either be the problem or the solution. From this point on, which will you be?
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