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Responding Wisely when Falsely Accused
All the passages below are taken from Charles R Swindoll’s book “Job” published in 2004.
The most treacherous enemy in the church is the tongue. The human tongue has done more damage and caused more heartaches than any other source of trouble. What we say cuts far deeper than any knife or sword. The Bible occasionally presents the tongue as a sword that thrusts its way into others' lives causing deep, lingering hurt. We're not surprised, therefore, to read of lying in the list of the Ten Commandments, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16 NASB).
When Solomon wrote the Proverbs, he included the seven things the Lord hates. Among them, "A false witness who utters lies" (Proverbs 6:19 NASB). Nevertheless, liars are still on the loose. If you have been the brunt of someone's lying tongue, more specifically, if you have been falsely accused, you don't need me to describe real pain. You've not only been there. You've discovered how difficult it can be to defend yourself. You try, but folks are hard to convince once they've heard convincing lies. The venom from a poisoned tongue has already taken its toll. Tragically, churches can be a feeding ground for loose lips and lying tongues. It takes courage to stand up to liars.
While I was ministering with Ravi Zacharias at a Bible conference several years ago, he told a terrific story that I'll never forget. There was a young pastor who went to a church that had gone through a devastating split. As a result, the little church had been reduced to bare survival. When the strong-hearted young man arrived, he was determined to open his Bible and boldly preach the truth from God's Word week after week. He had the courage to call a spade a spade, which God honored.
Not surprisingly, the church got back on its feet and began to grow. Before long the congregation was bulging at the seams. This resulted in multiple services on Sunday; it was obvious that they needed to build a larger place of worship. Only one major problem: The new worship center would cost a million dollars. Though they didn't have that kind of money, no one could deny reality---they needed the building.
In this growing church were two brothers living carnal lives. They were sorry rascals, and they were very wealthy. Rich reprobates living notoriously godless lives. One of them suddenly died. The surviving brother soon came to the pastor and said, "Here, I have something for you." He handed the pastor an envelope. "It's a check for one million dollars. I want you to use it to pay for the new sanctuary. All I ask in return is, when you preach my brother's funeral, tell everybody attending the funeral service that he was a saint. That's all I'm asking you to do."
The pastor thought for a moment and said, "Okay, it's a deal." He took the check, deposited it that same afternoon, and began to prepare his funeral message. The service was held several days later, and the church was packed. The coffin rested in front of the pulpit as the pastor stood to deliver his message. The people sat in silence, wondering what in the world could be said since they knew the kind of life he'd lived. They were stunned by the pastor's opening words. "This man was a reprobate. He was unfaithful to his family. He lived a life of hypocrisy and immorality. He was dishonest in his business. He was a liar ... not a man that you could trust. He was a major cause of this church's troubles and struggles before and after I arrived as pastor ... a real heartache to many of you. But compared to his brother, he was a saint."' There are several ways to speak the truth, but that young preacher refused to be blackmailed. Pastors that gutsy are rare.
Biblical Characters Falsely Accused
You may be surprised to find how often false accusations were leveled against innocent people in the Scriptures. Let's think of several examples---all of them the victims of unfair, damaging words.
Let's start with a man named Joseph, who learned a new language, became familiar with a completely different culture, and earned his way to a place of great responsibility as the manager of Potiphar's belongings. He was a model of integrity, but at the height of his career Joseph was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar's wife. He wound up in jail. How unfair.
Moses was faithful even at eighty years of age to obey God's voice and accept God's commission from the burning bush to go back to Egypt and deliver his people from bondage. Following the Exodus, while still wandering across the wilderness, the very people he had delivered turned on him and falsely accused him of bringing them into that wilderness to watch them die. Nothing was further from the truth.
David, after killing the giant and demonstrating a life of courage and integrity, was falsely accused of trying to dethrone King Saul by the jealous and insecure king himself. David became a fugitive for a dozen or more years, falsely accused of something that was not at all true. How undeserving.
Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around ancient Jerusalem having motivated the people to accomplish that difficult task. Just before the project reached completion, several of his enemies spread the word that Nehemiah had an ulterior motive. "He's building the wall so that he can ultimately become the new king. Nehemiah is in it for himself," was their lie. How unfair for that to be said of godly and diligent Nehemiah.
Peter and John were accused of preaching a false Christ, clearly a false accusation. Unfairly, they were beaten for it.
Paul was accused of being a phony convert shortly after his conversion. The apostles wouldn't even allow him in their circle since they were suspicious about his not being born again. He was later accused of causing a dissension among all the Jews. How exaggerated can stories get? The same man was later accused by Governor Festus of being insane because of his "great learning." How unfair was that?
And who could ever overlook Jesus himself, "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Much of His sorrow and grief was spawned by false accusations. From His earliest months in public ministry He was accused of being of illegitimate birth. During His incredible ministry, He was accused of being a drunkard because He sat and ate with sinners. The Pharisees also accused Him of being demon-possessed, an instrument of Satan, as He healed people. Ultimately, He went to the cross due to false accusations of blasphemy and tyranny. Talk about unfair!
We're not surprised when Jesus began to deliver His immortal Sermon on the Mount that He included these words:
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:11-12 NASB
If you are being falsely accused these days, I'd suggest you read those words again, this time a little more deliberately. Don't miss the promise: Your heavenly reward will be great. Today your misery may be enormous. You may have found that you're unable to defend yourself. A mind made up is almost impossible to persuade otherwise.
ENTER ZOPHAR ... ACCUSING FOR THE SECOND TIME
Then Zophar, the Naamathite answered,
Therefore my disquieting thoughts make me respond,
Even because of my inward agitation.
I listened to the reproof which insults me,
And the spirit of my understanding makes me answer.
Job 20:1-3 NASB
Zophar has "disquieting thoughts." He then admits to "inward agitation." He also feels "insulted." I'll be honest with you: I don't find anything that's disquieting, agitating, or insulting from what Job has said. He has simply voiced his disagreements with Zophar. Those who wish to set others straight and gain control over them are often disquieted, agitated, and insulted because they don't agree. They don't want to listen; they want to talk. They don't want to learn; they want to instruct, preferably lecture. And they certainly don't want to be disagreed with!
Zophar's acrid tongue has not softened as he's waited his turn to speak again. He has three messages to say to Job. Not surprisingly, he says each one in an exaggerated manner. First, he wants job to understand the wicked do not live long (Job 20:4-11 NASB). Second, the pleasures of the wicked are temporal (Job 20:12-19). Finally, he affirms God's judgment falls hard on the wicked (Job 20:20-29). There's one major problem with those messages---they are wrong when you interpret them as Zophar intends.
Zophar is delivering his lecture not unlike a novice coloring by the numbers---his numbers. To this man, everything is crystal clear and overly simple. Everything can be reduced to simplistic axioms, which explains why Zophar stands so firm in his comments about the brevity of life, the temporary pleasures of wickedness, and the judgment of God. Job will soon point out the error of Zophar's analysis, but first, let's be sure we track the man's thinking.
Do you know this from of old,
From the establishment of man on earth,
That the triumphing of the wicked is short,
And the joy of the godless momentary?
Job 20:4-5 NASB
Zophar sees Job as wicked, therefore, he believes it's his responsibility to tell him that he is not long for this world.
Though his loftiness reaches the heavens,
And his head touches the clouds,
He perishes forever like his refuse;
Those who have seen him will say, "Where is he?"
He flies away like a dream, and they cannot find him;
Even like a vision of the night he is chased away.
The eye which saw him sees him no more,
And his place no longer beholds him,
His sons favor the poor,
And his hands give back his wealth.
His bones are full of his youthful vigor,
But it lies down with him in the dust.
Job 20:6-11 NASB
In all this verbosity, Zophar is implying that Job's life is convoluted, twisted, and strange; it's weird and then all of a sudden, (poof!) you're gone. People won't be able to find you because the wicked don't stick around; God removes them.
When Zophar refers to his youthful bones lying down with him in the dust, he's not talking about natural causes, he's saying it's due to God's judgment. He says, in effect, "Because you've lived like you've lived, because you've kept your secret sins from us while all of us thought you were righteous, judgment will soon come. What Zophar lacked in tact he made up for in cruelty! Can you imagine Job's enduring such a blast? Trying to handle his misery and grief, he now hears, "You will die sooner than you think."
That's not all. Zophar bears down even further. As you read his words, put yourself in Job's place.
Though evil is sweet in his mouth
And he hides it under his tongue,
Though he desires it and will not let it go,
But holds it in his mouth,
Yet his food in his stomach is changed
To the venom of cobras within him.
He swallows riches,
But will vomit them up;
God will expel them from his belly.
He sucks the poison of cobras;
The viper's tongue slays him.
He does not look at the streams,
The rivers flowing with honey and curds.
He returns what he has attained
And cannot swallow it;
As to the riches of his trading,
He cannot even enjoy them.
For he has oppressed and forsaken the poor;
He has seized a house which he has not built.
Job 20:12-19 NASB
Those closing blows must have hurt. In addition to his insulting and condemning words, he accuses Job of taking unfair advantage of others because of his wealth. He implies that Job used his riches to exploit and oppress the poor by pushing them out of their houses, then seizing their property. All this to say, "Your pleasures are over, Job. The jig's up. Your wickedness has finally caught up with you." Is it any surprise why the Lord comes down so hard on "a false witness who utters lies?"
Unfortunately, Zophar isn't through. His final words can better be understood in the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases them in The Message.
Such God-denying people are never content with what they have or
who they are; their greed drives them relentlessly.
They plunder everything
but they can't hold on to any of it.
Just when they think they have it all, disaster strikes;
they're served up a plate full of misery.
When they've filled their bellies with that,
God gives them a taste of his anger,
and they get to chew on that for a while.
As they run for their lives from one disaster,
they run smack into another.
They're knocked around from pillar to post,
beaten to within an inch of their lives.
They're trapped in a house of horrors,
and see their loot disappear down a black hole.
Their lives are a total loss---
not a penny to their name, not so much as a bean.
God will strip them of their sin-soaked clothes
and hang their dirty laundry out for all to see.
Life is a complete wipeout for them,
nothing surviving God's wrath,
There! That's God's blueprint for the wicked---
what they have to look forward to.
Job 2O:20-29, MSG
One of the sources I've been using in my study of Job makes this insightful comment: "This is the last time we hear from Zophar and we will not miss him."2 In life, tragically, some people are so harmful and demoralizing, the best thing they do is ride off into the sunset and never return, since they've made everyone so miserable. As they walk out you think, "Good riddance." That's the way we feel about the Zophars in our lives. Job may have lived many centuries ago, but some of his encounters have a relevant ring to them. This kind of stuff still goes on.
ZOPHAR'S APPROACH APPLIED
Let's fast-forward momentarily and face the music. Some of you who are reading these words have awfully sharp tongues. You say things that cut, but you couch your words in phrases that sound pious and even eloquent. They can sound superreligious at times, but they're hurtful and damaging. They imply much more than is actually said. It is here that self-control plays such a vital role. How valuable it is to think before we speak and then, even after giving our words careful thought, to measure their tone, their possible impact, their truthfulness. Zophar did none of the above. With reckless abandon he dropped his harsh words like depth charges. Though Job was a seasoned and mature man of God, they must have hurt as they exploded in his mind. Even for the strong, false accusations hurt.
Forming habits of self-restraint is an essential discipline. When receiving information about another, it's best to ask the source: "How do you know that? Who told you? Is this information credible?" Those questions have a way of silencing people who tend to pass along damaging and exaggerated information. They assist in getting to the bottom of rumors. Furthermore, truth is given the opportunity to flourish, replacing lies. But you need to know that that kind of truth-talking comes with a price.
I recently read a true story about a minister ...
whose congregation persistently refused to accept his message. He wanted to lead God's flock into the green pastures and beside the still waters, but they were unwilling to be led. His choir, with their ungodly practices, brought things to a head.
The position became so untenable that he invited the choir to resign. The choir not only resigned, but persuaded the congregation to desist from taking any part in the singing on the following Sunday. The result was that whatever singing was done, had to be done alone by this minister, while the choir and congregation enjoyed his discomfiture. This state of things continued for some time and the minister was greatly dejected and perplexed at the turn events had taken.
He was at his wits' end when God spoke to him. One day he was sitting on a seat in a park when he saw part of a torn newspaper before him on the ground. The torn piece bore a message for him which exactly suited his need. It was this:
No man is ever fully accepted until
he has, first of all, been utterly rejected.
He needed nothing more. He had been utterly rejected for Christ's sake, and his recognition of that fact was the beginning of a most fruitful ministry. Though utterly rejected by man, he had been fully accepted by God.3
Throughout Zophar's lecture Job has been listening to what my mother used to call "a lot of palaver." Just a lot of lip flapping---he's been talking nonsense. What he's saying against Job isn't true, even though Zophar delivers his words poetically and eloquently. Job has patiently endured, but he refuses to let those words slide by.
I've heard it said that no matter what, when false accusations are made, you just sit quietly and say nothing; God will defend you. There are some occasions when that may be appropriate. Not always. I often call to mind a motto from the American Revolution: "Trust in God but keep your powder dry."4 Wise counsel! If your reputation is being ruined by lies, if your company is going down the tubes because of false accusations, if your church is being destroyed and demoralized because of wrong information from lying lips, there are times it is necessary to step up and set the record straight. Truth has a way of silencing lies.
JOB'S STRONG RESPONSE TO ZOPHAR
I'm impressed that Job refuses to take it on the chin. He doesn't shrug his shoulders and whisper, "Oh well, whatever." This was no time for passivity. Zophar's words were insulting, exaggerated, and inappropriate. His lies needed to be confronted, and his accusations denied. In fact, Job's opening lines reveal strong determination.
Then Job answered,
Listen carefully to my speech,
And let this be your way of consolation.
Bear with me that I may speak;
Then after I have spoken, you may "mock."
Job 21:1-3 NASB
He starts by telling Zophar to "listen (for a change) to my speech." It's an imperative, like we would say, "You listen to me!" Not unlike a line often used by authority figures in military uniform, "Okay, listen up!"
Secondly, he tells Zophar, "Bear with me." That was another needed imperative because people who are guilty of making false accusations are usually poor listeners. They're not known for patiently gleaning truthful information. Knowing that, Job says, in effect, "I want you to do two things: I want you to listen, and I want you to be patient as you reason your way through what I have to say." He throws in, "After I have spoken, you may mock." A well-timed counterpunch, which one of my references referred to as a "sarcastic imperative" in the Hebrew. Isn't that good? "After you've heard me out, go ahead and mock me, but at least give me my day in court. After listening and patiently sifting your way through this, then feel free to mock on." Perhaps his accusers have been reacting to Job's answers with hisses and disruptive gestures. He wants that to stop. He urges them to listen for a change.
Look at me, and be astonished,
And put your hand over your mouth.
Job 21:5 NASB
There's Job's third command: First, listen to me! Second, bear with me! Third, look at me! How can they do all three? "Put your hand over your mouth." By now those three critics must have been lecturing into space. They're no longer looking at him. So, Job says, "You look at me," as if to say, "Say what you have to say, but say it to my face." False accusers don't do that either. They go around us. They go behind our backs. They go to people who are weak and gullible and willing to listen to lies, and they infect them with their verbal germs. So, Job gets the attention of his accusers with these staccato-like commands.
If you take the time to analyze Job's answer, you'll see that he follows Zophar's outline, addressing all three of his points. Put in the form of questions:
1. Who says the wicked always die young? (Job 21:7-16)
2. Where's the proof that the godless always suffer calamity? (Job 21:17-22)
3. How can you say that death always falls hard on the wicked? (Job 21:23-26).
Let's take them in that order.
First, who says the wicked always die young? Job begins his defense by asking Zophar an excellent question amplified---"If the wicked always die young, why do so many continue on, becoming more powerful?" (Job 21:7 NASB).
Their descendants are established with them in their sight,
And their offspring before their eyes,
Their houses are safe from fear,
Neither is the rod of God on them.
His ox mates without fail;
His cow calves and does not abort.
They send forth their little ones like the flock,
And their children skip about.
They sing to the timbrel and harp
And rejoice at the sound of the flute.
They spend their days in prosperity.
Job 21:8-13 NASB
The realistic analysis doesn't look very grim. And yet there's no question---they really don't know God.
They say to God, "Depart from us!
We do not even desire the knowledge of Your ways.
Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him,
And what would we gain if we entreat Him?"
Job 21:14-15 NASB
The truth of the matter is, Zophar, "the counsel of the wicked is far from me" (Job 21:16). In other words, "I'm not wicked---I'm sick. Nobody (including you!) knows why I'm sick, but nevertheless I'm sick. It's a huge mystery, but get this straight, I'm definitely not in the category of the wicked."
Second, where's the proof that the godless always suffer calamity? Just because they don't have the Lord God in their lives doesn't mean that all in that camp go to an early grave. Furthermore, they don't always suffer calamity. Follow Job's logic here. Read his words thoughtfully.
How often is the lamp of the wicked put out,
Or does their calamity fall on them?
Does God apportion destruction in His anger?
Are they as straw before the wind,
And like the chaff which the storm carries away?
You say, "God stores away a man's iniquity for his sons."
Let God repay him so that he may know it.
Let his own eyes see his decay,
And let him drink of the wrath of the Almighty.
For what does he care for his household after him,
When the number of his months is cut off?
Can anyone teach God knowledge,
In that He judges those on high?
Job 21:17-22 NASB
Job is saying, in effect, "Your argument doesn't hold water, Zophar. There are numerous opposing examples of what you're suggesting."
Let me show you a verse you may have never considered before. I learned it years ago, and it comes to mind when I refer to subjects like this. These are among Solomon's ancient words of wisdom:
Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.
Ecclesiastes 8:11 NASB
Do you follow his thinking? He's saying this: Because every time a person does wrong he's not immediately judged or doesn't suddenly become a victim of calamity, he keeps on doing wrong. He determines he can do evil over and over again since he keeps on getting away with it. The lack of quick consequences prompts the wrongdoer to do more of it. You steal ten bucks and get away with it, you seriously consider stealing another ten. After stealing twenty and not getting caught and punished, you're tempted to be a professional thief, doing more of the same. Job had that idea in mind as he tells Zophar that calamity doesn't always follow close on the heels of the unbeliever.
We need to get stereotyped images of lost people out of our minds. Far too many Christians have the idea that because a person is an unbeliever, he's stupid. Not true! Many of the lost are brilliant. In fact, some are more brilliant than many of us will ever dream of being. Furthermore, many of the lost live easier lives than many of us. And they aren't instantly judged or taken from this earth before turning forty. Many of them live well and live long, even though they live alienated from the Almighty. It's easy to let that reality confuse us.
Not long ago I read of a pastor and a deacon who made plans to do some visiting of the lost in their neighborhood. One particularly notorious unbeliever, who was well known in the community, had visited their church the previous Sunday. He had signed a visitor's card, including his address. So they decided to drop by and talk with him about the Good News. They rode together in the same car, and when they arrived in this exclusive residential section they wound their way around the long driveway which circled in front of his large, gorgeous home. The lawn was thick and manicured, and the landscaping was elegant. Kids were playing hopscotch out in the driveway. They could see past the inner motorcourt into the backyard where there was a beautiful pool with a large, splashing fountain. There were three luxurious cars sitting beyond the brick arches, all of them new and spotless. Tucked away in the fourth garage was a classic, bright red Ferrari. Parking their car out front, both men could see the man of the house through the window of the study. He was sitting in his large soft leather chair, laughing with his friends and having the greatest time, munching on a handful of popcorn with a tall, icy beverage in the other hand. At that moment the young deacon turned to his pastor and said, "Now, tell me again, what kind of good news do we have for this guy?"5
Never forget, our Good News is about the life beyond. Believing that Good News does not mean you will suddenly become affluent. Nor does it mean if you don't believe it you're doomed to poverty or a life in prison. Our theology needs to be clearly understood and articulated apart from economic lifestyles or personal preferences or narrow-minded prejudices as if the wealthy can never be godly or the poor can never be wicked. That's where Zophar missed it, "Look at you, Job. Look at the condition you're in. Sick as you are and destitute as you've become, you obviously have sin in your life. You just haven't told us because only the wicked suffer like this." Job is setting the record straight: "No, that's not true. It isn't uncommon for the wicked to live very prosperously or for those who know God to suffer." But remember this: In death, all distinctions disappear.
Third, how can you say that death always falls hard on the wicked?
One dies in his full strength,
Being wholly at ease and satisfied;
His sides are filled out with fat,
And the marrow of his bones is moist,
While another dies with a bitter soul,
Never even tasting anything good.
Together they lie down in the dust,
And worms cover them.
Job 21:23-26 NASB
"Zophar, you've missed it in my case; I'm not in that category." And look at Job's final response to Zophar's erroneous counsel:
How then will you vainly comfort me,
For your answers remain full of falsehood.
You've got to admire Job's honesty. Like the pastor who refused to be bribed by the surviving, rich brother, Job says it straight. That kind of truth-talking needs to be practiced in public. Falsehood has no redeeming value and must be confronted head-on. The word falsehood, in the Hebrew, means, "treachery or fraud." In other words, "Zophar, your answers remain full of treachery. They can't be counted on. I am not as you have falsely accused me. You need to hear the truth, since you're neither saying it nor hearing it." I cannot help but wonder if this strong rebuke explains Zophar's sudden exit from any further dialogue.
FOUR RESPONSES TO FALSE ACCUSERS
I began this chapter by addressing the power of the tongue. As we've worked our way through the last of the three accusers in this second cycle, we've seen repeatedly how devastating false accusations can be. Chances are good that many of you who are reading these lines are currently the target of someone's lying accusations. That can be an anguishing cross to bear. I've been there so I speak from painful experience. Since this is an ongoing issue for many of us, it should be helpful to draw a few guidelines to follow based on the way Job handled his accuser. I find from Job's example at least four responses worth mentioning. Each is followed by a strong two-word suggestion.
First, listen to what is being said, considering the character of the critic. STAY CALM! You will be tempted to jump in and rashly react in the flesh, saying things you will later regret. Do your best to listen to what is being said. While doing so, keep in mind the character of the person who is the source of the accusation. Calmly take it all in. Job did that, which prepared him for his further response.
Second, respond with true facts and accurate information knowing the nature of your accuser. SPEAK TRUTH! Stay on the side of accuracy, regardless. The other person may be a former husband or former wife. He or she could be your previous or current boss, an employee, a neighbor, a pastor, or a friend. It doesn't matter who the individual is. If you are being accused you need to focus only on true facts. Don't react or ponder ways to retaliate. If you yield to either temptation, you'll come off sounding like the accuser. God honors integrity. Maybe not immediately, but ultimately you'll be vindicated. Remember David's prayer: "Vindicate me, 0 LORD, for I have walked in my integrity" (Psalm 26:1 NASB). Truth will prevail among people who traffic in it and make their decisions based on it.
Abraham Lincoln was told that he needed to fire his postmaster general. All kinds of accusations were being leveled against the man. Lincoln weighed rumor against hard evidence, and on July 18, 1864, he wrote Secretary Stanton a letter saying he was not going to do that because the information was based on hearsay, not accurate facts. In that letter he correctly concluded, "Truth is generally the best vindication against slander."6 Wise response.
Stay with the truth. Don't exaggerate it, don't deny it, and don't hesitate to say it.
Third, use examples that represent reality and balance, trusting your defense to the Lord. LEAN HARD! Stop and think. Job did precisely that. While speaking the truth he left the defense of his own character in the Lord's hands. He was firm and deliberate, but he remained in control. I repeat, I understand what it's like to be unjustly maligned. I have been accused of things, and that rumor has kept me awake. It has made my stomach churn. It has taken away my appetite. I have determined not to pay any attention to it, yet found that I was unable to turn it off in my mind. Not until I decided to leave things in the Lord's hands and rest in His sovereign control, did I find inner peace. Without exception (please hear this!) without exception, not until I deliberately stepped back and leaned hard on my God, did my mind begin to relax, my emotions settle down, and my inner peace return. I say again, the truth will win out. And God will be glorified.
Fourth, refuse to let the accusations discourage and derail you, remembering they are nonsense and lies. GET TOUGH! Returning to that one-liner from the Revolutionary War, "Trust in God but keep your powder dry," is essential to keeping your balance. You may be trusting the Lord for safety, but you still lock your doors every night, hopefully, and turn on your alarm. When you get in your car, you lock your doors, don't you? You roll up your windows, don't you? If you don't, you are playing with fire. Trusting God is not naive presumption. Wisdom must be applied to a life of faith. Going through hard times requires a get-tough mind-set. Go there. That may seem harsh, but it's realistic. Realism is a powerful message.
I recall the true story of a physician-father who lived in Paraguay. Several years ago he stood against the unscrupulous military regime there, especially exposing its human-rights abuses. The law enforcement officials were corrupt. As a result of being exposed, they took out their revenge on the outspoken medical doctor by arresting his teenage son and torturing him to death. The townsfolk were outraged. They wanted to turn the boy's funeral into a huge protest march. The doctor chose a better means of protest. At the funeral, the father displayed the son's body as he had found it in the jail---naked, scarred from the electric shocks, cigarette burns, beatings, and stabbings. All the villagers filed past the corpse, which lay not in a soft, clean casket but on a dirty blood-soaked mattress from the prison, exactly where he found his boy. It proved to be the strongest protest imaginable. It put injustice on grotesque display.7
That's what God did with Christ at His crucifixion. He didn't wrap Him in a clean, white bedsheet, saying to the world, "No, no, it's too hard for you to look at that." Jesus wasn't crucified in a dark, private basement so people wouldn't see. He was on a hill, at a place of public humiliation, hanging there. Exposed. Finally limp, gray, dead. The method, representing a bold message, was impacting, and that cross is still impacting all who will look and live. Look at it yet again. Let your mind picture it. Bearing the sins of the world called for an agonizing, ugly scene.
Let me write these closing words to you who are going through a time of false accusation. May God strengthen you in it. May He hold you close through it. May He give you wisdom and grace in responding to it. May He become real and personal to you, even giving you songs in the night and quiet rest with the assurance that He is defending your integrity. And I would add, may He toughen your hide so you don't cave in while awaiting vindication.
And let me say to you who are spreading rumors, lies, and slander against another: There is nothing more treacherous you could be doing than that. Nothing. If you claim to be a follower of Christ, that must stop. Now. You hurt the body. You disease the church. You ruin the testimony of Christ. There is nothing the lost world loves to hear and see more than the family of God fighting each other.
To all of us I would add a final comment. Before we cluck our tongues at Zophar and Bildad and Eliphaz, let's do some soul-searching. Let's follow the psalmist's example and pray: "Search me, 0 God, and know my heart; try me, know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way" (Psalm 139:23-24 NASB) [163-180]
1. "The Saint" http://www.jokecenter.com/jokes/Religion/6755.htm-14k. Anonymous.
2. J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, r994), 111. Used by permission.
3. Colonel Blacker, Oliver's Advice, 1834 quoted by John Bartlett (1820-1905), Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. 1919. Public domain.
4. Source unknown. Public domain.
5. "What Good News Do We Have for This Guy" story. Source unknown.
6. Abraham Lincoln in a letter to Secretary Stanton dated July r8, 1864, in which he refused to dismiss the Montgomery Blair, Postmaster General as quoted by John Bartlett (1820-1905), Familiar Quotations, 10th ed., 1919. Public domain.
7. Story based on the experiences of Dr. Joel Filartiga and his son Joelita in Paraguay in 1976, htt://www.pbs.org/wnet/justice/law_background_filartiga.html.
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