15 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:15–16, NKJV)
Both the Law of Moses and the gospel of Christ warn against the sin of talebearing. We are more accustomed to the word “gossip” (1 Tim. 5:13). It has been normalized, as millions flock to rumormongering as part of their usual, information-gathering process. (Witness TV shows like Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, and Page 6, and publications like People Magazine and National Enquirer, whose website tag is, “Hottest Celebrity Gossip & Entertainment News.”) Society is saturated with talebearing – juicy gossip that tingles the ears with baseless assumptions, groundless speculations, and false accusations against others. Israel was told not to be talebearers precisely because it is unrighteous judgment against others. You see, talebearing is about having power over others. It draws people into its snare, leading them to abandon reason and fairness, causing some to even “stand against the life” of the innocent on nothing more than hearsay. The talebearer is an untrustworthy liar. Wisdom teaches us not to associate with such folks, because talebearing causes wounds and strife (Prov. 11:13; 18:8; 20:19; 26:20-22). The best way to put out the fire of talebearing is not to receive it. (And, don’t be the one who starts that flame, either!)
Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10, NKJV)
Love obeys God’s law. By doing so it fulfills law. It is indeed futile to try to separate our obedience to God’s law and our love for Him and for our neighbors. Obeying God’s commands grows out of loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Loving your neighbor means loving him as you love yourself (Mark 12:31). Just as we do not seek to harm ourselves, love does no harm to its neighbor. Love does not commit adultery, does not murder, does not steal, does not bear false witness, does not covet, or do anything else that harms another person (Romans 13:8-9). Love actively does good instead of evil. Obeying the will of God from the heart is love in action (Romans 6:17; 1 John 3:17-18). Love is not set in contrast to obeying the law of God; It is not one or the other. Instead, love actively fulfills (accomplishes, obeys) the law of God.
Let all that you do be done with love. (1 Corinthians 16:14, NKJV)
Love is known by the actions it prompts. Just as love prompted God to send His Son into the world to save us, the motive of love must undergird everything we do as followers of Jesus (1 John 4:9-10). Obeying God’s commands in faith is a full expression of loving God: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). We should not discount obedience to God and love for God – they are bound together. God commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31). This elevates the value of others above oneself, so that we treat them with virtuous attitudes and actions. The things we do have no spiritual benefit without the motive of love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). William Barclay called agape (love), “unconquerable benevolence, undefeatable goodwill.” Love must drive everything we do. Love keeps our hearts right with God, and it keeps us living in the truth of God.
32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him. (Mark 12:32–34, NKJV)
Notice the traits of this scribe whom Jesus said was “not far from the kingdom of God.” First, he accepted what Jesus said as the truth (v. 32). Secondly, he believed in the one, true God (v. 32). And thirdly, he acknowledged the primacy of loving God and one’s neighbor over giving God offerings without the presence of such love (v. 33). Yet, the man was not in the kingdom, he was near it. Even so, you may believe that Jesus spoke the truth, and that God is real. You may even profess love for God and show kindness to your neighbor. Yet, to actually enter the kingdom of God you must be born again (from above, Jno. 3:3-5). The new birth consists of water and the Spirit, being directed by the Spirit to be baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 5:26; 1 Pet. 1:22-23). Until you believe the Spirit’s word and are baptized, you may not be far from the kingdom – but you are not yet in the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 1:13-14).
1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? … 3 He who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; (Psalm 15:1, 3, NKJV)
It is a transgression to speak maliciously against another person. Turning those words into evil actions multiplies the wrong. Evil words and evil deeds prevent fellowship with the Holy One of Israel. Whether the neighbor is an ordinary citizen or a more intimate acquaintance matters not; evil behavior is forbidden. Jesus said to treat others as we wish to be treated by them (Matt. 7:12). Equally destructive is a scornful criticism against a friend. We harm and hinder our fellowship with God when we spread ill reports about others. Israel was warned against circulating false reports, and God promised the destruction of the person who secretly slanders a neighbor (Exo. 23:1; Psa. 101:5). Our moral and ethical treatment of others is a condition for being received into God’s presence (where His perpetual care comforts the weary traveler).