A powerful word from Calvin’s Institutes about caring for our neighbor’s reputation. I am convicted by this word especially since I know that I have failed often in this area.
We delight in a certain poisoned sweetness experiences in ferreting out and in disclosing the evils of others. And let us not think it an adequate excuse if in many instances we are not lying. For he who does not allow a brother’s name to be sullied by falsehood also wishes it to be kept unblemished as far as truth permits (1:412).
The phrase, “as far as truth permits” is important because there may be times when one needs to speak ill of someone. But these times should be rare, and they should probably always be attended with grief for the person and recognition of one’s own sin. Calvin concludes,
Hence, evilspeaking is without a doubt universally condemned. Now, we understand by “evilspeaking” not reproof made with intent to chastise; not accusation or judicial denunciation to remedy evil. Nor does evilspeaking mean public correction, calculated to strike other sinners with terror; nor disclosure before those who need to be forewarned lest they be endangered through ignorance. By “evilspeaking” we mean hateful accusation arising from evil intent and wanted desire to defame (1:412).