As election time looms yet again, we see accusations, counter-accusations, then accusations that the accusations are “fake news” and the babble (Babel?) goes on. It seems like these years have been a polarized political controversy beyond compare… though to be fair, the more I study American history, these things have always been with us. Social media just helps us do it faster, louder, and less articulately.
Last year I was heavily convicted and preached a sermon ON ACCUSATIONS. It was the culmination of studying smart theologians, listening to wiser, older men and discussing with the elders of our church. The bottom line? As Christians, we cannot adopt the “rules of engagement” of our culture. We are called to be holy, and we should take the time to reflect biblically and be prepared to answer from the perspective of our Lord.
Below are the highlight points and verses we should acquaint ourselves with and seek to incorporate as ambassadors of Christ: for a more comprehensive and pastoral presentation, you can watch the video HERE or listen to the audio HERE.
- The Bible is clear that – among other sins – false accusations are real, false witnesses are rampant, and those who bring false narratives have reasons that are sometimes obvious but more often are sly, nuanced, and subtle to lure us in:
Psalm 35:20-21 “For they do not speak peace, but against those who are quiet in the land they devise words of deceit. They open wide their mouths against me; they say, “Aha, Aha! Our eyes have seen it!”
- This is particularly true in regard to accusations against leaders and those seeking (or in) high positions of power and authority, which is a call for caution and careful corroboration:
1 Timothy 5:19 “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
- A specific accusation of sin (culturally, historically) may enflame our personal passions, but make no mistake: the Lord is so vociferously against false accusations that it is deemed an equal crime and sin, even to the shared severity of penalty. Here is the base-line standard our GOD gives for judgment that should be the Christian’s baseline toward ALL accusations:
Deuteronomy 19:15-21 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing… The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”
- False accusations are such a big deal, they make it into the top 10 commandments (we usually just think of this commandment in terms of “lying”) but it’s specific about “bearing false witness” and rests on the SAME level as both sexual sins and even murder:
Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
- If we are honest with ourselves regarding situations unfolding in corridors of power, and relationships far from our direct observation and involvement, there is no way under heaven we can say with integrity (or certainly biblical certainty) what is truth in such cases, so for us to pass judgment from afar and spread our “certainty” we may well be putting ourselves under the condemnation of scripture: this verse is NOT unclear.
Exodus 23:1 “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.”
- Seeing emotional testimony from afar, however “compelling” a person makes me “feel” does not give me license to declare what is and is not truth. If I judge others without multiple witnesses or evidence, based on my emotional attachment or affiliation to the testifier, Jesus Christ himself says that we will be judged the same.
Matthew 7:1-2 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. “
- Assuming we can truly determine someone’s guilt (or “credible” testimony) from second and third hand media, or even their emotional outpouring on television, would be sinful hubris on our part. It’s actually NOT about their “credibility” so much as certainty in our own discernment. What pride!
Romans 12: 2-4 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment,”
- We may want to argue percentages or “odds” to dismiss or validate a claim (such as rape, racism, etc). Staggering percentages may arouse our emotions for a general sense of justice (or vengeance). But something that is statistically probable, even likely, does not give me license to say it is thus true in a specific case.
James 1:19 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”
- Knowing something is epidemic in culture does not allow me to summarily condemn an individual. “I know his type” and other comments show our compromised state.
Proverbs 3:30 “Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.”
- Knowing a person has other sins – even similar sins – does not let me pronounce them summarily guilty of a particular accusation, and again doing so puts us in potential peril.
Proverbs 19:9 “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.”
- Knowing similar abuses have indeed happened to others (or myself) at the hand of the wicked does not let me exact vengeance on accused or similarly “likely” parties. I can’t vent my frustration toward a trend upon the latest person accused.
Ephesians 4:31 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
- Even Jesus, at times, refused to take up the umbrage of offense of one person against another.
Luke 12: 13-14 “Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”
- The reality is, most of us are nowhere NEAR close enough to arbitrate these news and social media courts of public opinion, or have any accurate judgment, save to armchair quarterback for our own vanity and virtue signaling for our own minds and to look good in the eyes of others. We forget:
Proverbs 18:17 “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”
- The last thing Christians need are the kind of declaratives that show us to be rash people like the world around us, quicker to judgment and more judgmental than our scripture commands us to be.
Leviticus 19:16 “You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.”
- We should join the everlasting throng, and not a shifting court of emotionally incensed public opinion, patient and praying for truth to be revealed and not simply that which supports our personal narrative, our biases, our assumptions or our agendas.
Ephesians 4:14-16 “…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
- In light of our insufficient ability to judge these situations, many of us miles away literally and figuratively from any objective vantage point, we should guard our speech with “if…then” and precise statements, statements of what we may suspect and/or what we hope for, lest our rash speech and runaway emotions stain our role as image-bearers of God, proving us to be sinfully judgmental, foolish, poor ambassadors and shameful stewards of all He has given us as his children the church.
Proverbs 11:9 “With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.”
- We can see and hear lots of well-intentioned, “heartfelt” statements that it would be easy for Christendom to buy into and parrot in a way that makes us look good and “caring” to the world around us. “#believe hashtags, bumper sticker slogans and other catchphrases are often problematic and not biblical. The way to address historical inequities is not overcompensation or joining with those who do. It is walking a biblical tightrope. May we do so with true impartiality and a godly foundation, putting our scripture and not cultural bandwagons as our rule and guide for determining our speech and conduct.
Additional Verses… read these and don’t think of “the other side” but your own patterns, your own speech, your own conduct. See if these truly describe you, and/or if you need to repent.
Psalm 141:3 “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Matthew 12:36 “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak”
Ecclesiastes 5:2 “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”
Proverbs 17:27 “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”
Proverbs 13:3 “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”
Proverbs 16:23 “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.”
Proverbs 12:18 “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
2 Timothy 2:23 “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.”
1 Peter 4:15 “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.”
These things are sin. Christ DIED for sin… all sin, not just the “big ones” we like to elevate. So consider before you speak, text, or post…
- That keystroke is a hammer stroke on the nail through Christ’s feet.
- That gossip is a gash in his spear-stabbed side.
- That accusation is the crack of the whip on his bloodied back.
- That spreading of an unconfirmed allegation is a thorn jammed into Christ’s temple.
But you think… “what if I’m right on this one? Sure, technically I don’t know for sure, but if I’m right…” okay, so are you gonna roll those dice on the blood-stained back of Jesus? To what end? The Bible is the one who makes the true, unerring accusation: every meddler is a murderer, and Christ died for that self-righteousness, provided we are in His grace.
Proverbs 20:3 “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.”
It’s my hope and prayer that Christians would step back from the clamor of culture and present a different vision for dealing with the controversies and the struggles around us. Meeting sinful force with the same verbal methods and actions above are literally using tools of Satan in the name of Jesus Christ. Lord, have mercy on us and lead us to repentance.
– Pastor James Harleman