This is the eighth lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude; Discipleship; Dependability & Determination; Discernment, Decision & Duty; Declining Days, Deformity, & Disability; and Danger, Daring and Darkness thus far. There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this lesson we want to look at the Disciplines of Defamation and Defense.
As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360). We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, many of the things he has written resonate with me. Mr. Edman appears to have had a love for alliteration, as all thirty-0ne of the the disciplines he wrote about begin with the letter “D.” Another source that I have used for this series that is not so “contrived” is the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines edited by Warren Berkley and Jon Quin and published by Expository Files.
Defamation (2nd Samuel 16:5-14)
Defamation is defined as “the act of defaming; false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another, as by slander or libel; calumny” (www.dictionary.com).
Edman reminds us of the admonition of Scripture, “For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps” (1st Pet. 2:19-23, NLT). He then says, “This is a deep discipline of the soul, this evidence of our true sonship with God, as described by our Lord Jesus Christ… ”But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Mt. 5:44-45, NLT).
David’s conduct before Shimei excellently illustrates the discipline endured by those who are defamed.
The situation: David is old; he’s been driven from his capital, caused by his rebellious son Absalom. Scripture describes Shimei’s stinging insults and David’s response (2nd Samuel 16:5-14, NLT).
Shimei said, “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel! The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!”
David’s response, “My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.”
This is an often repeated theme in David’s Psalms:
“Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing! The faithful have vanished from the earth! Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts…. The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do” (12:1, 2, 5, NLT).
“Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about. They repay me evil for good. I am sick with despair. Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I denied myself by fasting for them, but my prayers returned unanswered. I was sad, as though they were my friends or family, as if I were grieving for my own mother. But they are glad now that I am in trouble; they gleefully join together against me. I am attacked by people I don’t even know; they slander me constantly” (35:11-15, NLT).
“I said to myself, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me” (39:1, NLT).
“I have seen wicked and ruthless people flourishing like a tree in its native soil. But when I looked again, they were gone! Though I searched for them, I could not find them!” (37:35-36, NLT)
“How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. Praise the Lord, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love. He kept me safe when my city was under attack” (31:19-21, NLT)
“O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain” (3:1-4, NLT).
Others demonstrated this discipline as well – the soft answer “that turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1)
Moses was the object of criticism, not only from the Israelites in General, but even from his own brother and sister. “While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” But the Lord heard them. (Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.)” (Num. 12: 1-3). “One day Korah son of Izhar, a descendant of Kohath son of Levi, conspired with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, from the tribe of Reuben. They incited a rebellion against Moses, along with 250 other leaders of the community, all prominent members of the assembly. They united against Moses and Aaron and said, “You have gone too far! The whole community of Israel has been set apart by the Lord, and he is with all of us. What right do you have to act as though you are greater than the rest of the Lord’s people?” Num 16:1-3, NLT)
The humble response of Moses is described, “When Moses heard what they were saying, he fell face down on the ground. 5 Then he said to Korah and his followers, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show us who belongs to him and who is holy. The Lord will allow only those whom he selects to enter his own presence. Korah, you and all your followers must prepare your incense burners. Light fires in them tomorrow, and burn incense before the Lord. Then we will see whom the Lord chooses as his holy one. You Levites are the ones who have gone too far!” (Num. 16:4-7, NLT).
Jesus was above all men spoken against falsely. In return for the miracles and healings He performed, He was repaid with the anger and envy of political leaders who sought to kill Him. One such example is that is recorded says, “Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus. (Mk. 3:1-6, NLT)
Mark also records, “One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.” Jesus called them over and responded with an illustration. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” he asked. “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart. And if Satan is divided and fights against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive. Let me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house. “I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences.” He told them this because they were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.” (Mark 3:20-30, NLT).
Many other examples could be cited (Mk. 6:3; 14:45, 61; 15:3, 5; Isa. 42:2, 3; 53:7; Mt. 5:11-12) but suffice it to say that Jesus was without question the greatest sufferer and the most prolific example of the discipline of Defamation.
Paul described some of the things that he faced, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” (2Cor. 4:8-9). When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside” (2Cor. 7:5).
“If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (Rom. 12:7-21).
Defense (1Sam. 22:8)
“And there is none of you that is sorry for me.” “These are the words of a king! Who would have thought it could be so? A sovereign stooping to self-pity, a monarch making himself miserable and mean, a crown that cries like a spoiled child! But that is what the story tells, with penetrating insight and illumination into the character of Saul, first king of Israel” (Edman, p. 63).
Selfishness and self-pity were not conspicuous in Saul’s character at the outset his royal career, but he would soon develop a character dominated by those attributes.
At the outset of his royal career he seemed to have commendable characteristics: He came from a good family (1Sam. 9:1). He was a dutiful son (1Sam. 9:2). He was tall, handsome, competent, cooperative, and had qualifications to be over God’s people (1Sam. 9:16). He was humble and unassuming (1Sam. 10:14-16). He shrunk back from being king (1Sam. 10:22). He held his peace when criticized (1Sam. 10:26).
When time came “to reveal his qualities of leadership, he was not inadequate” (1Sam. 11:4-11). He showed that he could be magnanimous; for when his soldiers wanted to cut off his erstwhile critics, Saul could say with generosity, “There shall not be a man be put to death this day… (1Sam. 11:13)
But flaws began to appear in his personality & character: He seemed to lack a sense of the spiritual despite his home training. He became self-willed, impulsive, and imperious (“domineering in a haughty manner”-dictionary.com). He presumed the prerogatives of the priest by offering the sacrifice (1Sam. 13:13-14)
He “seemed to lack a sense of fitness in things human as well as divine” (Erdman, p.65). He denied his men food when a great victory was in the making (1Sm. 13:15-23; 14:24). Even his son Jonathan said he “troubled the land” (1Sam. 14:29-30).
The test came years later when he was to destroy the Amalekites (1Sam. 15:1-3) but his obedience was only partial (1Sam. 15:9). The Lord was sorry he had set up Saul to be king (1Sam. 15:11). When confronted, he made excuses (1Sam. 15:20, 21) as he had done earlier (1Sam. 13:11-12).
Erdman says about this discipline:
“This is the discipline of defense. As long as a man is on the aggressive, alert to his liabilities and limitations, active in his service for God and man, he can be courageous, generous, altruistic, large-spirited; but when he allows himself to get on the defensive: defending his position, policies, procedure, personality, program, then he tends to become timid, selfish, self-centered and small. He has lost the magnanimity that can minimize insults and injuries. He forgets the wholesomeness and soul-health necessary for his own soul. As indicated in a prayer of Phillips Brooks, ‘Let me not lose faith in my fellow men. Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery or meanness. Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them.’
“Self-centeredness makes a man soft, sensitive, selfish. Self-pity makes him pitiable, a picture of pathos when he should be a power for good. Self-importance makes him unimpressive, important in his own eyes but impossible to others. Conceit makes him contemptible. Bitterness of spirit over the success of others makes him blind to his own shortcomings. Envy makes him unenviable. Petulance makes him picayunish. Self-pampering makes him sarcastic. Self-indulgence makes him indolent. Self-defense destroys his self-respect, and makes him less a man.”
“This I say is the discipline of defense. To whimper is to be a weakling to complain is to be a coward; to blame others is to be a baby; to pity self is to be pitiful; to yell is to be ‘yellow,’ which term of contempt contains the whole concept of the unworthy and worthless.”
“The discipline of defense demands that we destroy self-centeredness, self-pity, self-importance, self-indulgence, self-defense of any kind. If others are honored, congratulate them (1Cor 12:26); if you are neglected, forget it. If the job is too big for you, admit it to yourself and to others and step aside graciously; you will be a bigger and better man for it. If others can do the job better than you, let them do it with your ‘God bless you!’ Let no dog-in-the-manger attitude make you snappy, showing teeth and temper rather than kindness and courtesy; in other words, be a Christian rather than a cur!”
“The discipline of defense is to ‘to be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love in honor preferring one another … not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith … (to) bless them which persecute you; (to) bless and curse not’ (Rom. 12:10,3,14).” It is further defined and described in Phil. 2:3,14,15. “It is to do your duty and to do good unto others.”
“To defend yourself is to descend to the despicable, the degrading, the destructive; to deny yourself is to ascend to the worth-while, the wholesome and the helpful” (Erdman, pp.66-68).
This article has dealt with a positive discipline that we should seek to develop and a negative that we should be on guard against.
The positive, Defamation, that is doing good and living for God, no matter the consequences that may come to you as a result, is a discipline to be developed.
The negative, Defense that is allowing yourself to get on the defensive: defending your position, policies, procedure, personality, program, tending to become selfish, self-centered and small. You have lost the magnanimity that can minimize insults and injuries. This is a discipline that would cause us to guard against the invasion of flaws of personality and character like those that developed in Saul.
(Source: The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edmond, pp. 55-70)