There’s an old joke out there that goes, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” If you say “yes,” you imply that you used to do it. If you say “no,” you suggest that you are still doing it. Obviously, the question may be where the problem lies. If you do not beat your wife, the question would not be relevant and certainly not fair.
“I hear Brother So N So holds this position,” that “School X teaches error on such and such,” and that “Congregation A is ‘off’ on that.” Too often, maybe based on a feeling that the source is credible, a person gullibly accepts the accusation at face value and even passes it along to others. Of course, some are very blatant and public in teaching things that are contrary to the Word of God. They loudly proclaim and proudly publish their false views, but the aforementioned innuendoes and intimations are an altogether different matter. Why these rumors and accusations get started is sometimes hard to pinpoint. Is it jealousy, misunderstanding coupled with indiscretion, meanness, or possibly something more benign? Writing about presumption last year, I urged the presumptuous to “substantiate before you propagate, and then only carefully and prayerfully” (https://preacherpollard.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/the-problems-with-presumption/).
Solomon wrote that “a good name is to be more desired than great wealth” (Prov. 22:1) and that “A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth” (Ecc. 7:1). While we are the primary stewards of our “good names,” others can tarnish it unfairly.
It is good to ask, “Do I know this rumor to be true?” Or, “Is it a matter of judgment and opinon with which I disagree, or is it truly a matter of doctrine and eternal truth?” Or, “Does the ‘reporter’ have an agenda that needs to be considered?” Or, “Why do I want to pass this along?”
“Slander” is a verbal offense that should not be in the Christian’s repertoire (Psa. 15:3; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; 1 Pet. 2:1). That is “old man” activity! It is easy to besmirch someone’s character and reputation, but what a dangerous thing to do. May we bridle our tongues lest we set fires (Js. 3:3,6).