Pastoral Perspectives

The Accused

It was the red half of Manchester against the red half of Liverpool, which has traditionally been billed as the most anticipated match in English football. But alas, that game was remembered more for the spat where one player accused another of racial abuse. No one else heard it and so there were no witnesses. Nevertheless the Football Association handed the accused an eight-match ban that would hurt his club severely and a hefty fine that wouldn’t really hurt his wallet much. But the verdict means that he was guilty based on the words of the accuser alone. So not surprisingly, his club cried foul and came up with some comical acts to show their support of him. Their action suggests that they were certain he had been wrongly accused and hence the club had been unfairly penalised. Well, we do not know for sure what was really said between the two but we can be sure that accusations happen not only on football fields. We find them at political arenas, court rooms, workplace, homes and even churches. And so it is said that we live in a finger-pointing society, a world full of accusations in order to tear one down or bring another up.

So have you been falsely accused and there were no witnesses to testify for either party? And so it becomes a case of one person’s words against another and whoever tries to mediate might find himself accused of being bias. So what can you do about it? Well, what does the Bible say about it? The Bible is not silent because Satan, the chief accuser, has been hard at work since Genesis 3. And his first victim was none other than God whom he accused of hindering Adam and Eve from becoming like him. And his work will go on until he is finally cast into eternal fire. So we find several examples of accusations hurled at one another, especially with people being accused of wrongs that they did not commit. And so we find the examples of Joseph and Moses in the OT. The former was accused of raping his master’s wife and was thrown into jail. The latter was accused by his own fellow Israelites for bringing them out into the wilderness to die and had to bear with them for forty years. Then we have Jesus and Paul in the NT. The former was accused of crimes he did not commit and was nailed to the cross. The latter was accused by his own fellow Jews of stirring up riots in Jerusalem and had to bear with them for the sake of the gospel. And thankfully, the Bible records all these stories in order that we may know how God worked out their situations for good. The lesson for us is that they had endured false accusations but had not suffered in vain. Now, is your situation as bad as theirs that you may also find yourself serving time in jail, bearing the grievances for forty years or in the worse case scenario, paying with your life? What can we learn from the Bible so that we may be able to face false accusation, whether it is by other people or by our own and triumph over it?

Well, the one and only thing we need to remember is that God knows and he will surely vindicate the innocent party. Therefore it is better to be falsely accused and not seek vengeance than to falsely accuse and face God’s wrath. But surely you do not need me to tell you this. We all know that God is omniscience, right? Yet when the rubber meets the road, we may struggle with that knowledge. What do I mean? Well, Job knew about God’s omniscience too and when falsely accused by his friends of sins, he said to them, “For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.” (Job 28:24). Yet he struggled with God’s glaring silence and tried to justify himself such that his self-righteous defense put his friends off and incurred the anger of Elihu (Job 32:1-2). Likewise we may be tempted to vindicate ourselves such that we become like Job and put others off with our holier than thou attitudes or incur new troubles with our arguments. Worse still, things may get so personal that we begin to bear grudges, even among fellow believers. But don’t get me wrong! I am not saying that when we are falsely accused and have no one to testify on our behalf, we should just keep silent and accept it. We ought to give our defense like the apostle Paul did on numerous occasions in Acts. But having done that, we should then leave the outcome to God and trust him to work things out for good and according to his great plan. It is not easy to do so but that’s what Joseph, Moses, Paul and our Lord himself did.

Now let me get back to that spat. If you were to ask me for my opinion, I would be inclined to say that the accusation was probably true and my judgment has absolutely nothing to do with the clubs but the accused himself. Why? I had followed the last Copa America Cup which was eventually won by the accused’s country and the accused was voted as the best player of the tournament. I had no doubt about his football skill but I was consistently pissed off (sorry for the language) by his theatrical falls in order to win set pieces or get someone booked. I know many players do that too but somehow he, like the other player who also dons the No 7 jersey, is able to fall so gracefully and get me pissed off in the process. I also remember his version of Maradona’s Hand of God in the last World Cup that denied Ghana a deserved victory and he seemed to have no qualms about it and would probably do it again. Then there was also the incident where he made an obscene gesture at the opposing fans and for which he had also been penalised. And this time round, his club could not cry foul because his guilty act had been captured on camera and preserved in cyberspace as a witness to all. Therefore if I have to make a call between the two players without the benefits of witnesses, I would be inclined to side with the accuser based on my observation and impression of the two players and their characters.

So what am I trying to say here? Well, how we live and behave matters a lot. For when the crunch comes and people have to make a judgment call without the benefits of evidences or witnesses, chances are that they will judge based on how they have perceived us as fellow believers, colleagues or friends over time. And so if others find it hard to believe that we have been falsely accused, then it is probably the right time that we evaluate and ask if we have failed in our Christian living. Who knows, it may well be God working in our lives to get us back on track. And if this is the case, I trust we can all agree that it is better to get right with God than trying to play righteous before men.