Every leader’s experienced slander at one point, sometimes insignificant and easy to move past and other times devastating. And in the moment we understandably default to self-righteousness, correcting opponents (or friends) and accusing them in return. But biblically we know God has a bigger plan when life’s shipwrecked by someone else. David says this in Psalm 119:68-71 ESV:
“You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”
What David conveys is slander makes the self-righteous truly righteous, and that’s good news. Slander presses those who may not have committed the offense they’re accused of to meditate on God’s law, and see the offenses they have committed. When David is slandered by Saul, he acknowledges he loves God’s statutes while saying “it was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statues.”
And this is the divine irony of slander, that what someone says isn’t true but it used by God to teach us truth. And that’s why (according to David) both God is good AND the shipwrecking of your life. I don’t know your story or how much others have taken from you, but I do know in the taking God was giving. He was giving you true righteousness instead of the defensive self-righteousness you’ve adopted to protect yourself.
And as leaders, David sets a high standard in how he responds to it. He acknowledges God’s role in allowing it, he openly refutes it but never once names his accuser (King Saul). And the reason is because Saul was anointed by God to rule, and until God dealt with his wayward son, David would honor him and not find identity in the lies told about him.
Ultimately, it was slander that brought true-righteousness to all of us. God’s son Jesus came as the perfect man who had no reason to mediate on the law because he wrote the law. He embodied honesty and compassion and service, but other men hated him for it. And they accused him, leading to his death on a cross outside Jerusalem.
But what we know is that as men were working, God was working as well. God was laying on Jesus our guilt and self-righteousness and the slander we’re guilty of. He taking his own son’s life from him and giving it to us. But the story doesn’t end on the cross but blooms in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on the third day, moving so powerfully the world’s still recovering 2,000 years later.
So when you’re accused, remember your sin and how your accusers are aiming low (as you’ve done worse than they know). Know God has a plan for the island your life is shipwrecked on because of someone’s accusation. And know God has made you truly righteous in Jesus, should you choose to let go of what’s been taken, let go of your self-righteousness and accept him.
Fred Kingman is pastor at Prodigal Church.