Perhaps the No. 1 problem — yes, and even the No. 1 and most prevalent SIN IN God's Church today is careless GOSSIP and rumor spreading. Whether or not realized, it often becomes accusation and slander. If a hostile student demonstration, such as organized and promoted by Communists, had appeared on the Ambassador campus I would have made it my business to identify the LEADER and get rid of him. Once such actions lose their leadership they disintegrate. It's the same on our problem of rumors — especially those ugly rumors that discredit or accuse, actually, perhaps unrealized, a form of character assassination. I fully realize that often this is mere carelessness — a sort of thinking through the mouth — with no deliberate intention to harm. But it DOES HARM! And sometimes it is intended to harm! The subject came up in a conversation with David Antion. At my request he has prepared the following memorandum on GOD'S LAW covering this subject. This sort of thing MUST BE STAMPED OUT OF GOD'S CHURCH. Our Leader and HEAD of the Church, Jesus Christ, is TURNING GOD'S CHURCH AROUND, though He uses His human servant in so doing. However, because 1) we have perhaps carelessly neglected emphatic TEACHING on this subject, and 2) much of such gossip or rumor has probably been done carelessly without full realization of the seriousness of it, I have decided to hold off direct and definite punitive corrective action UNTIL THIS THING HAS BEEN EMPHASIZED by the ministry, and in print, before the membership. I realize that even many of us, including myself, may have been guilty of this through carelessness, thoughtlessness or neglect. I have decided, therefore, that first we must PUT EMPHATIC EMPHASIS on this matter in teachings, sermons and articles. But this is to be followed by DIRECT ACTION, seeking out the SOURCE — the one who started the rumor, false accusation or whatever, and then making an example of that person, if necessary, before the whole Church. I feel that this is CHRIST'S WAY of stamping out this evil from God's Church, and I act, therefore, in His name. Following is Mr. Antion's memo to me on this subject. Here is the memo you asked me to write when I was in your office last Friday. It is on the subject of what God's Law has to say about false witnesses and accusation. As you have taught for many years, the statutes of Scripture are derived from the GREAT LAWS of God in the Ten Commandments.
The Ninth Commandment
The Ninth Commandment — "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" — is the basis for the other statutes and judgments in this category in the Bible. Most people assume that the Ninth Commandment is only against lying. Though it does cover lying (Revelation 21:8, Colossians 3:9) it is mainly against false accusations made against another! You have also taught that the main object of the last six commandments is love of your neighbor (Romans 13:9-10). And the Ninth Commandment forbids making a false witness against your neighbor — thus harming him. The Moffatt and the New English Bible say, "You shall not give false evidence [against your neighbor]."
Not a light thing
Does God consider it a light thing for a man to falsely accuse his neighbor (brother)? And what about Jesus' words: "Judge not that ye be not judged"? We know that we can judge a person's actions as being either in conformity or not with God's law. But can we judge his heart? "But why doest thou judge thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Romans 14:10). And in verse 13, "Let us not therefore judge another any more." The apostle James must have had trouble with judging and accusing in his day, for he writes: "Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou are not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who are thou that judgest another?" (James 4:11-12). Those who would speak evil of another and judge their brothers are in reality judging the law and speaking evil of GOD'S LAW! And like you have said, "The one who accuses us usually is guilty of the very thing he accuses others of."
False accusations divisive
If a minister got up in the pulpit and spoke evil of the Law of God (which is holy, just and good), he would be dismissed from the ministry! But what happens to him if he judges the intent, thought and beliefs of his brother? For too long God's Work and God's MINISTRY have been divided BECAUSE OF FALSE ACCUSATIONS AND JUDGING! It is time that God's Law be applied and that God's own judgments be enforced against those who judge and falsely accuse. It was false accusers that got Jesus crucified! Should God's Church house them now? Should it allow false accusers (thus encouraging them in their deeds) to continue their satanic actions?
What is the motive?
Many people don't mean or intend to be malicious with their words. They are just careless and neglectful. They say and pass on information without checking it out — without responsibility! For some it is just habit. But God's Law also deals with neglect. And one can forfeit his life through neglect! (See Exodus 21:28-36.) Sometimes people accuse because they want to get another person in trouble and see him thrown out of his job or the Church. Whatever the motive, whether neglect, carelessness or malice, Jesus' words still ring true: "But I say unto you, that every idle [Moffatt says 'careless'] word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shall be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37). Another translation says it this way: "I tell you this: there is not a thoughtless word that comes from men's lips but they will have to account for it on the day of judgment" (New English Bible).
BUT WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN TO PEOPLE WHO FALSELY ACCUSE? HERE IS GOD'S JUDGMENT: "If a malicious witness appears against a man to accuse him of evil-doing, then the two parties in the dispute shall appear before the Eternal, that is before the priests and the presiding judges: The judges shall investigate the matter carefully, and if it turns out that the witness is malicious and that he has given false witness against his fellow, YOU MUST TREAT HIM AS HE MEANT HIS FELLOW TO BE TREATED: SO SHALL YOU ERADICATE EVIL FROM YOUR MIDST. THE OTHERS SHALL HEAR AND FEAR AND NEVER AGAIN BE GUILTY OF SUCH A SIN" (Deuteronomy 19:16-20 Moffatt translation). But what should happen to the person who makes these accusations? In the last few years God's Church has been a house divided and filled with this deadly evil. Accusers take verbal rifle shots at others trying to get them fired or excommunicated or to damage their reputations. But the only thing that happens to the accuser is that he is told he is mistaken. Or if confronted by his intended victim, he apologizes. He — the accuser — risks absolutely nothing. He damages others, almost succeeds in getting them fired, demoted, thrown out of the Church or cast in suspicion, considered untrustworthy and avoided. At the very least, he causes them to consume enormous amounts of time trying to straighten out the problem and track down the rumor. But NOTHING happens to the accuser. He is fine — alive and well — and ready for another try in the future.
Slander affects relationships
One of the worst things about all of this is that often the victim of the accusation doesn't even know that he is being slandered, accused, cast in suspicion, judged. Things are said that may stick in the minds of those who hear. Though no action is taken, these slanders affect the relationship that people have with the accused person. People avoid him. Mistrust him. He is passed over for important jobs or assignments. ALL OF THIS JUST BECAUSE OF A WORD OR TWO SAID CARELESSLY, NEGLECTFULLY OR MALICIOUSLY! Only by applying God's Law — HIS GOVERNMENT — to the Church can we rid the Church of this evil and have the HAPPINESS, PEACE, UNITY AND JOY that God will approve and BLESS in His Church!