Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jumping (off a cliff) to Conclusions

Years ago, with no evidence and surreptitious accusations, men and women were tried and convicted of the ghastly crime of being—you guessed it—a witch. In the same vein, “drumhead courts” were conducted with swift collaboration and often harsh, if not brutal, judgments. These ancient forms of jurisprudence have managed to find their way into the modern vernacular, and now most everyone knows what is meant by a “witch-hunt.”

These “witch-hunts” still happen, but they happen in a different environment—the media. Today, turn on a television and watch the news and soon you will hear the various broadcasters mention someone who is accused of some heinous crime. However, the verbiage used is built around the assumption that the person is guilty. A man will be charged with some pernicious crime and the media blitz will speak against the “evil” man. They will discourse and dialogue with each other about how this man (or woman) could do the things they’ve been accused of. Now, remember, people are still innocent until proven guilty, but that doesn’t prevent the “talking heads” from maligning and destroying the character of the accused.

Christians must have a higher standard than what is purported on these accusatorial bandwagons. The standard for a Christian is: truth. Yet I am sure that the following scenario is familiar to you: a person is maligned through gossip or accusation and soon members of the church rise up and hop on the wagon, without evidence and without support. I remember as I sat in Bible study a woman of the church said, “Can you believe what [person named] did?” I asked her, “How do you know? Did [person named] tell you this?” Sheepishly she admitted that the evidence she possessed was little more than gossip. Ask yourself: how quickly do you navigate toward believing everything you hear about someone else? Or do you, as a faithful believer, question responsibly and seek the truth?

John the Baptist, when questioned by a group of Roman soldiers about repentance, said, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay” (Luke 3:14). The Roman soldier was the ancient version of law enforcement. Imagine when a police officer arrests someone today, they bring all the weight of the law against the individual simply by the position they hold. So how important is it that an officer of the law makes sure that their accusation is viable? It is imperative! 1 Timothy 5:19 states, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” Yet, today, accusations in the church run rampant and are readily believed by those who have no knowledge of the circumstances.

Consider the exhortation given by James, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Consider Proverbs 3:30, “Do not accuse a man for no reason—when he has done you no harm.” Too many people are willing to jump to conclusions like lemmings off a cliff. It is time for Christians to take the higher road, the road of truth and turn a deaf ear to gossip and malicious slander. In this world of mass-media and multitudinous voices pandering to the fears of society, Christians can be the voice of reason and bear again the banner of truth.

Rev. Michael Duncan

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