It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! (Luke 17:1, KJV)
But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:12-18)
In Philippians 1, Paul tells of some brothers in Christ1 who attacked him verbally from their pulpits, impugning his reputation and character in an obvious attempt to raise their own lights in the church by helping one of its luminaries to fall. From Paul’s day till now, the same sad sort of behavior continues to be exemplified by members of Christ’s body who should know better. Whether sitting at a desk and writing books, uploading to the Internet, or mounting pulpits on Sunday morning, men and women are still falling into the same trap year after year, thinking that the demise of someone else’s reputation in the church will enliven their own.
Speaking their hearts but lacking or ignoring the truth about the other person, they claim the servant of God to be what he is not—guilty of some imagined sin or error. From Athanasius to Al Mohler, God’s dear servants have been the subjects of gossip, smear campaigns, character assassinations, rumors, backbiting, and generally poor treatment—and not just from the unsaved, but from redeemed people acting and thinking sinfully. Sometimes their accusations fall on deaf ears, and the charge goes nowhere. But sometimes the charge gains an audience, and other proponents take it up.