Guilty Until Proven Innocent

It can be a stretching of the truth, a little “white” lie, a fib expressed to gain attention or increase one’s popularity, all the way through a great story, a whopper of untruth, that intends to besmirch and destroy another’s character. Lately, there is a serious 8th Commandment issue that far too many people seem to be O.K. with. Instead of the old legal standard of “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” we have become a people who currently live under a code of “Guilty Until Proven Innocent.”

Please keep in mind, I am not speaking about attacking those who have truly been victimized. They have every right to come forward and speak out against injustice, abuse, inappropriate overtures. etc… They need support and help though the traumatic experiences they have endured. And, those who have perpetrated these offenses should be held fully accountable for their sinful actions.

However, what about the falsely accused? No defense will work, no correction of details or facts are accepted. If you are accused in today’s climate, you are guilty. No jury, court or even witness is needed. The one who speaks out first is believed and trusted as speaking the full truth, even though they themselves may be lying. This is currently the way of the world. Believe it or not, even your closest friend can lie to you and you will believe them out of blind loyalty.

This is life in the public and political arena. In the church it’s more of a been there-done that reality. It is nothing new in respect to people in the church. There have been many divisions in congregations throughout the ages that are due to this perception.

I know many pastors and a few other church workers who have been accused of serious indiscretions. I also know that some of the stories were not true. With this I’ve seen reputations destroyed, pastor’s families wrongly vilified and even congregations experience splits all because a person lied to make themselves appear as a victim. To compound their sin, the lies became realities in the minds of those who repeated their false accusation so often, they began to believe themselves. Over the years I have even been the victim of such lies, but you can’t speak out against them or it becomes like Prov 26:4 “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.”

The Bible has a lot to say about this subject:
Col 3:9 “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices”
Prov 12:22 “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.”
Prov 13:5 “The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.”
Eph 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

We are supposed to be above all this in the church, we should live remembering Phil 1:21 “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Don’t believe everything you hear but, test the spirits. Remember, Christ is about forgiveness, not accusations. Let your speech build the church, not tear her down. And if it’s not true, don’t repeat it.

~ Pastor Bill