Part I (Accusation of Men):
An accusation is a charge of wrongdoing that is made against a person. It is an act of imputation of guilt or blame on a person for some fault, offence or crime. It could be in the form of a statement asserting that someone has done something morally wrong, illegal, or unkind. One of my favourite films “12 angry men” is a courtroom drama that gives real depth on the subject of accusation. The film opens with a trial of a young boy accused to have stabbed his father to death. The judge instructed the jury (in weighing the evidence) that they must return with a verdict of ‘guilty’ unless there was any reasonable doubt. To begin with, 11 out of the 12 jurors seem sure, and so they voted ‘guilty.’ The one juror who had a reasonable doubt courageously challenged the other jurors to question their own motives, and to diligently scrutinize every little detail of what seems to be a cut and dried case. As the jurors all hesitantly re-examined each piece of evidence in turn and their own motives, new doubts were raised, and in the end, they all agreed to a ‘not guilty’ verdict.
Although a verdict of “not guilty” is not the same as ‘innocent,’ I felt a sense of relief at the end of the film, as I thought to myself that a possible miscarriage of justice had been averted. One key lesson I took away from the film is that a hasty judgment is often a merciless judgement. “Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him” – Proverbs 29:20. James (1:19), the brother of Jesus encourages us to be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.
It is incredible to me how easily we can misjudge people; how easily we can jump into conclusion about people’s life; how easily we impugn wrong motives on people; how easily we apply formula that are born out of our own self-righteousness. While the truth is that, most people judge themselves most fairly and others most harshly. “When I sin, I want to call it a mistake. When you sin, I want to call it sin.” – R.C Sproul. Truthful and honest accusation (e.g., criticism), even when justified is often painful. But unjust and irrelevant accusation (e.g., slander) hurts much deeply, especially when it comes from someone you love and trust.
In all occasions, we are called to deal with any disputes and disagreement we have with other believers on the basis of charity. The book, “Charity and its fruits” is one of Jonathan’s Edwards finest works. It is an exposition of 1 Corinthians 13, on the meaning of love. In the book, Edwards expands that the judgement of charity is the judgement of love. The judgment of charity assumes that (in a Christian dispute) the brother or sister with whom we are disagreeing with are disagreeing honestly and with personal integrity. In other words, Edwards is saying, “You don’t impugn people’s motives and don’t assume the worst of their motives when we find we are in disagreement with them.”
One of the most difficult injuries to bear is indeed the pain of false accusations. It is one of the most destructive and devastating things anyone could experience. When falsely accused, it may be necessary to defend yourself. But sometimes, there is just no way to prove you have been falsely accused, and no matter what you say or do, you have been caught in a net, and fall prey to false accusations, lies and innuendos. Even without saying that which is directly false, some may to some degree distort events, sometimes by a way of exaggeration of your fault, or by speaking in an unfair and unjust manner about you.
Vindication is something we all cry out for when we are falsely accused. There is nothing wrong with having that desire to be vindicated. In fact, Jesus tells of the parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge to teach us about that very point (Luke 18). Nevertheless, as Christians, “we ought meekly to bear not only a small injury, but also a good deal of injurious treatment from others. We should persevere and continue in a quite frame, without ceasing still to love our neighbour not only when he injures us a little, but when he injures us much, and the injuries he does us are great for a long time.” – Jonathan Edwards.
In the book, Charity and its fruits, Edwards talks about how love responds patiently to false charges and false accusations. As Christians, we are called to a spirit of forbearance and of longsuffering (Gal 5:22). “The spirit of Christian long-suffering, and of meekness in bearing injuries is a mark of true greatness of soul… When the injuries we suffer are allowed to disturb our calmness of mind, and put us into an excitement and tumult, then we cease to bear them in the true spirit of long-suffering… Christians ought still to keep the calmness and serenity of their minds undisturbed, whatever injuries they may suffer. Their souls should be serene, and not like the unstable surface of the water, disturbed by every wind that blows.” – Jonathan Edwards.
By a way of an extreme example of such spirit, R.C Sproul once shared the following moving story about the life of Jonathan Edwards – a preacher whom God used to be the catalyst for the Great Awakening in the New England region of the United States. There was apparently a man in Edwards’ town who became very jealous and angry of him. In a clear case of malice aforethought, this man made up lies and began to spread rumours designed to assassinate the character of Jonathan Edwards in Northampton. Finally, the rumours rose to a fiery proportion that it became the great scandal of the time. But through it all, Edward refused to defend himself and did not respond to any of the charges.
At one point in time, Edward’s friends asked of him, “Why won’t you speak up in your own defense? Don’t you want to be vindicated?” Edward responded, “I want it desperately, but because I figure it this way: If I defend myself, then the extent of my vindication will be directly proportionate to the skill of my defense, but if I bear it all patiently, then God will move heaven and earth to vindicate me; and I much prefer His vindication to my own.” Edwards eventually was removed from his pastorate, exiled and banished. Apparently, it wasn’t until 7 or 8 years later, that the man who started the rumours became so overcame with remorse that he called a public meeting and publicly confessed his complete guilt in making up all the charges. Edward was finally vindicated.
As I reflect on this challenging story shared about Jonathan Edwards, I believe in essence that Edwards is saying, we are to be willing participant in the humiliation and suffering of Christ who was constantly maligned, constantly slandered, and spent his entire ministry being the victim of false charges that were made against him. Any yet, through it all, Jesus did not run around in a hysterical sense of trying to be vindicated from all these false charges. But he returned good for evil, and he made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant [Philippians 2:7].
The story of Jesus really is the ultimate story of character assassination and of false accusation.
“He (Jesus) meekly bore innumerable and very great injuries from men. He was the object of the spite and malice and bitter revilings of the very ones he came to save. They hated him with a mortal hatred, and wished he was dead, and from time to time endeavoured to murder him. They often actually took up stones to stone him, and once led him to the brow of a hill, that they might cast him down, and thus dash him to pieces. And yet Christ meekly bore all these injuries without resentment or one word of reproach. There was no interruption of the calmness of his mind under the heavy distress and sufferings, nor was there the least desire for revenge. But, on the contrary, he prayed for his murderers, that they might be forgiven, even when they were about nailing him to the cross. The sufferings of his life, and the agonies of his death, did not interrupt his long-suffering toward those that injured him.” – Jonathan Edwards.
Part II (Accusation of Satan):
Accusation is a means by which Satan torments the conscience of believers. Satan is hell-bent in his work of accusation, he is constantly pointing attention to our sins so to accuse us. Our accuser, Satan [Revelation 12:10], knows that the word of God says that the soul that sins shall die [Ezekiel 18:20]; He knows that the word of God says that the wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23]. So, when Satan comes before the throne of God, and points to our sins, sins of which we are guilty, God the judge knows Satan’s accusation were just, true and fair. God the judge knows that the evidence is overwhelming against us, and that we were under condemnation of sin even before Satan brought his accusation of us forward. The evidence of our guilt is clear in scripture for it is written [Romans 3:10], “There is no righteous, no not one,” and “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23.
We are a guilt-ridden people and Satan would often hit us were we really are guilty. Martin Luther once said that most Christian have enough religion to feel guilty about their sins, but not enough religion to enjoy life in the Spirit. “Guilt is one of the most powerfully paralysing forces there is to the human spirit. And the only remedy to real guilt that I know of is real forgiveness. The only thing that has the ability to free a person from actually guilt is actual forgiveness. But there is price tag for that, and it is called actual confession and repentance. God promises that if anyone comes to him and confesses his sin, God absolutely promises to forgive that person of sin.” – R.C Sproul.
Satan’s accusation may ring true and cause of to feel guilt and shame, but thanks be to God for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus [Romans 8:1]. Before the throne of God above, only Jesus can defend us and pronounce us guiltless. “Open-mindedness will not save; tolerance will not save; indifference to the truth will not save; ambiguity towards Christ (which is the gospel of the emerging church) will not save; denomination church membership will not save. None would save but Jesus.” – Dr. Michael Youssef. He (Jesus) is the only one who can speak for you and me. He is our strong and perfect plea, our great High-priest who ever lives to intercedes for us. He took upon himself our sins, shame and guilt by the way of Cross. Because of Jesus, we can proclaim boldly with the apostle Paul, “Who shall lay any charge against God’s elect?” – Romans 8:33