It is almost impossible to get through a week without hearing one Christian disparage another. Unless we are personally invested in the conflict, we usually stand by feeling uncomfortable, while passively allowing our friend to “vent.” But the Bible tells us we have a responsibility in these kinds of situations. Our obligation begins with understanding how horrendous those disparaging words are to God.
In James 3 we are told that Christians, who at one moment exalt God and at the next tear each other down, have engaged in a serious sin that is both illogical and unacceptable (vv.9-11). In that text we are reminded that all people are made in the image of God (v.9). More than that, our Christian brothers and sisters – as imperfect as they may be – have been remade in the image of Christ and are in the process of sanctification (Col.3:9-10). Just as Paul told the Corinthians to “let no one despise” Timothy in the church at Corinth (1Cor.16:11), sometimes we need to feel our corporate obligation to shut down the mutual disparagement that goes on all around us, and encourage face-to-face resolutions when the situation is serious.
I know we don’t generally like these kinds of community obligations; after all we have enough trouble policing our own words. Yet, when we refuse to be a sounding board for these kinds of derogatory rants we might find it has a sanctifying effect on our own tongues as well.