Character assassination is an attempt to tarnish a person's reputation. It may involve exaggeration or manipulation of facts to present an untrue picture of the person.
Such acts are often difficult to reverse or rectify, and the process is likened to a literal assassination. The damage can last a lifetime or, for historical figures, for many centuries after their death.
In practice, character assassination may involve double speak, spreading of rumors, innuendo or deliberate misinformation on topics relating to the subject's morals, integrity, and reputation. It may involve spinning information that is technically true, but that is presented in a misleading manner or is presented without the necessary context.
It seems like character assassination has become commonplace. Politics seems like nothing but character assassination. Each political candidate or pundit tries to smear the opposing side.
In Leviticus 19:16 God tells his people “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people”.
Although gossip and character assassination are commonplace, they are not something a Christian should be involved in.
A number of years ago George Harrison wrote a song about gossip titled The Devil’s Radio. Here are some of the lyrics of the song.
I heard it in the night
Words that thoughtless speak
Like vultures swooping down below
On the devil's radio
It's all across our lives
Like a weed it's spread
'till nothing else has space to grow
The devil's radio
In reality, gossip is telling and/or listening to something uncomplimentary about another with the wrong intent or purpose. It can be true or it can be false, but the intent is the same.
Obviously this is a serious issue; but there is a type of character assassination that is even more serious; the assassination of God’s character.
The first time we find character assassination in the Bible is in Genesis Chapter 3. There Satan, disguised as beautiful serpent, tells Eve half truths and lies and gets her to believe them instead of what God has told her.
Satan invented character assassination. We know that he used it in heaven. He was so good at it that he convinced one third of the angels to believe him instead of God. It is the method that he uses to separate people from God. We want to make sure that we aren’t working for him by giving people the wrong idea about God’s character. It can happen to even the best Christians.
Even the great prophet Moses fell into this trap of Satan’s. We find the story in Numbers chapter 20. For many years God has been providing water to the Children of Israel. Can you imagine that many people basically camping in a dry wilderness? The only way for them to have water would be by the miraculous grace of God. One day there was no water for the congregation. The Bible tells us they gathered together against Moses and Aaron. The people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: “If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! Why have you brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here?
Moses and Aaron prayed to God and asked Him for guidance. God told them, “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.”
So Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.
It looks like the story has a happy ending. I’m sure that Moses and Aaron were pleased. Even though they had to endure a bit of a tongue lashing, so were the Children of Israel. They now had plenty to drink. But God wasn’t happy.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
That seems quite harsh. Moses and Aaron had given 40 years of their lives leading this ungrateful people to the Promised Land. The one thing they really wanted was to actually see the Children of Israel in the Promised Land. Why was God so upset?
In Psalms 106:32,33 the Bible says “The people also made the LORD angry at Meribah, and Moses was in trouble because of them. The people turned against the Spirit of God, so Moses spoke without stopping to think”.
Moses spoke without stopping to think. He spoke for God words that God had not asked Him to speak. He had followed his own course of action instead of what God had asked Him to do. He had misrepresented God’s character.
If we claim to speak for God, we must not misrepresent the kind of God he is. There is nothing more serious than to picture God as he does not wish to be seen. We must be careful with how we picture God to others.
Do you portray a harsh demanding God, or a loving God? Are you presenting a picture of God that will please Him? We want to make sure that we aren’t a part of the character assassination of God.
1 John 4:16-19 tells us, “And so we know the love that God has for us, and we trust that love. God is love. Those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. This is how love is made perfect in us: that we can be without fear on the day God judges us, because in this world we are like him. Where God's love is, there is no fear, because God's perfect love drives out fear. It is punishment that makes a person fear, so love is not made perfect in the person who fears. We love because God first loved us”.