To slander is to throw acid onto the face of another’s reputation. It mars them in the cruelest ways. In one biblical example, the slanders that people spread in fact aimed to have someone killed (Ezek 22:9). This illustrates what is at the heart of slander: assassination, if not of the person then at least of their character. It is no wonder that Jesus listed slander right in the midst of the clearest examples of evil he could name: “sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly” (Mark 7:21-22). Nor is it a surprise that slander has a slot in Paul’s list of the sins of a “depraved mind” that deserve judgment (Rom 1:28-32). Slander is Sin with a capital S.
It used to be that slander was more or less contained to a small community since it could only spread by word of mouth. In such settings, there was also the possibility for it to be quickly stopped as members of the community stepped in to set the record straight.
But everything is different now. With one slanderous blogpost or tweet, we can destroy someone’s reputation in the eyes of thousands—all within a few hours. And because we do it from the privacy of our home, any reproof from the community comes too late. Once the bell of slander has been rung, it cannot be unheard. Some people will never look at the slandered person in the same way. The acid of slander has permanently marred them.