Defending the Accused

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I wanted to write and publish this a few weeks ago, but didn’t want it teaming with the other plethora of emotional reactions to current events. Stressful and high emotional events do not serve as the best time for research and cognitive change. A friend once said, “Don’t learn theology of trials during the trial, but before the trial.” The best time to learn combat tactics is during the preparation time, allowing practice to hone those skills, not introduce them. The amount of public accusations levied recently highlights the need for God fearers to act appropriately, being in line with God’s Word.

What are we to think when someone levies an accusation? How should we respond? Some recent accusations levied contain extremely serious crimes. Crimes no Christian wants unpunished or any human being to endure. These crimes anger us because they seem below human. The wife in Broadchurch tells her husband she won’t commit adultery “because I’m a human being.” Even unbelievers, made in God’s image, recognize a level of justice, revealing they are made in His image and their conscience speaks. Why? Because they are human beings too.

How do we need to respond when we hear about an accusation? The mass media seems to grab a pitch fork. True or untrue, the accusation proves guilt and demands punishment. Justice must be served! Why? I’ve read multiple people on Twitter explain, “We must always side with the victim and trust the accusation.” But as Christians, we cannot respond the same way. We have to slow down and realize God’s glory must be exalted by following His will. So we must slow down and demand legal and just due process. We must ask for a legal court with a jury verdict, if applicable. Why? Because not only do we want to protect the victim, but we want to protect the accused too. Yes, we NEED to protect the accused too.

CAVEAT. Now, if what you just heard was, “Justice doesn’t matter;” “He doesn’t want to defend victims;” or “Guilty people should go free.” Then you’ve heard it ALL wrong and either I’m communicating poorly or you’re reading into this what you want to hear.

So I proceed with this one rule. Christians defend both the victim and the accused throughout due process. We hold back a “guilty” verdict until the jury declares, “guilty.” Why?

I

First, God created due process. Therefore, we need to encourage a legal process before coming to any conclusions or judgments. Consider Deuteronomy 16:18-20,

You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

Israel needs judges. Those who can investigate impartially. Notice the bold text, God basically says three ways, “justice must not be perverted.” The judges must investigate thoroughly and righteously. God is not siding with the victim or the accused. He is siding with both. A false accusation is as bad as a sinful crime.

II

Second, False witnesses are an abomination to the Lord. Therefore, we need to mitigate against and punish false accusations. The Lord hates false testimony. He hates when an innocent person is declared guilty of something he or she did not say or do. (This is why He hates slander and libel too — even in theological discussions).

A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed. If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deut 19:15-21).

As recorded above in 19:19, a false accuser’s punishment must be the result of what he or she wanted done to the accused. You wanted life in prison, the false accuser now gets life in prison. The accused, victim, and court must follow the process. God cares for the victim. He wants justice. But he also cares about the accused. Enough so to ask the judge to make sure there is repercussions for false accusations. God hates false witnesses so He protects them too until a final verdict.

III

Third, The first to plead His case is not always right. Therefore we need to be slow to speak and respond. Allow for fact gathering to take place orderly. “The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). The text is clear. Most of us think we are right in our perspective. Every day we interpret events. This includes interpreting what happened to me. “That car totally ignored me and cut me off because he hates me.” Reality, he had to get over and was out of room and he assumed, “you were kind enough to let him over.” Just because someone says something does not make them right (or wrong). This is why multiple witnesses benefit justice. They see an event and can discuss what they saw. Although they may miss why a person does something, they can validate the events.

But, why would a person lie and make up an accusation? If I have something I want, know the media will blow up and defend the first to speak, then why would I not make up an accusation? If my political party can benefit, an accusation goes far (this is not any direct comment to any recent events). Attention. If I want attention, this will provide it. There are all sorts of reasons. Here are two real life events.

A student accused his teacher of sexual misconduct. Why? Because he knew the teacher would be fired, everyone would trust him, and could get out of the class. After thousands of dollars spent in defense, in court, the student admitted he made up the accusation. Everything is right now, right? No. Because he was accused, he’s gone on a sex offender list in every state. Now for a small fee (200 in most states) he can show the court’s acquittal and have his name removed. Yeah. So for $10,000 he can have his name cleared in all fifty states for something he didn’t do. And the student? Nothing happened.

Take our foster care system. Teenage foster children have made false accusations against the parent to change settings. (Now I know, there are also legit bad stories too). But the simple point: people know false accusations produce desired results. The foster program benefits some situations by removing the child from abusive parents. But this doesn’t happen over night. It is a process, often a long process. Parents may have their parental rights removed months before they stop having an actual relationship with the child. But in the process, some of these parents will begin accusing the foster parents of any impropriety, sending case workers on wild goose chases and having the foster parents slurred for no reason. Repercussions? NOTHING. Why? Because we do not live in a world that provides recourse for false accusations. We need to defend the accused until something actually happens in court. Why? Because it’s the just thing to do.

So, how do we respond? Simple. Demand justice through due process before a judge and jury.

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