Tis the season for horrible accusations to come out. I’ve never been a Penn State fan but have always admired Joe Paterno. It makes me sad to think of eight young boys being abused by a coach they should have been able to trust and by whom they should have been protected. I have no sympathy for the man who was guilty of the abuse. I certainly don’t feel much sympathy for the administrators who were told of the problem and instead of dealing with it and turning the man in performed a major cover up. I don’t know what all Coach Paterno did to handle the problem. He has said he told the administrators over him back in 2002. But today he said he had failed to do what he should have done. It is sad to see a career that has lasted so long be tarnished at this point in his life.
In the political realm the accusations seem to be coming out of the woodwork against Herman Cain. I don’t know if any of the accusations are true. We have the word of the accusers over against the word of the accused. One may say that there are three women making the accusations and only one man denying it. But the number of people making accusations doesn’t add to the proof that any of them are true. None of the accusations are the same. I would guess that it will become obvious as time goes by what is true and what isn’t. But until it does, what we have is accusations with no proof and Mr. Cain denying that anything happened at all.
Have you ever had accusations made against you that were not true at all, yet you had no way of proving that what was said wasn’t true? Of course, by law we are innocent until proven guilty. But in the world of public opinion it often works in reverse. We tend to believe the negative things said about a person even when the person denies it and we have nothing more than the word of the accuser to go on.
Consider some things the Bible says on this whole matter. The Old Testament law was that unless you had two or three witnesses against a person then the person wasn’t to be believed. In Hebrews 2:1-3 the writer says that we ought to give closer heed to the things we have heard so that we won’t drift away from the Lord. “Those who despised Moses Law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation which at first was spoken to us by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him.”
When Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy he told him not to accept an accusation against an elder unless he had two or three witnesses. If someone sinned he was to rebuke them before all. The point is that unless you have multiple witnesses you don’t have enough to even start investigating a matter. But understand the multiple witnesses against a person don’t make them guilty of anything. It does cross the threshold of needing to be investigated.
What do you do if someone makes an accusation against you that isn’t true? I assure you there will be people who will believe the accusation even if it has no basis at all. It is always surprising when a person is accused of something that isn’t true at all that many of the people you thought were your best friends will believe the accusations and in their mind find you guilty. This is the case even when the accusations are of something that is completely out of character for you. Why does this happen? I’m not sure but I’ve seen it happen many times through the years often with the result that someone that has been a faithful servant of God throughout their lives has their reputation completely destroyed and nothing they can say or do changes anything. I’ve watched marriages fall apart because of an accusation that later turned out to be completely false, but it placed such doubt in the other partner’s mind they could not go on.
It is no wonder that Solomon said, “Where there are no gossips the fire goes out.” Think of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount declaring what we know of as the Golden Rule. “Whatever you want others to do to you, do the same to them for this is the law and the prophets.” What does this golden rule have to do with the whole topic of accusations? How would you want others to react if someone made an accusation against you? Isn’t that how we should react when people make accusations against others?
All it really requires is for one to walk slowly when people make accusations against a person is for one to walk in their shoes for a while and consider the times in their own life when the same has happened to them and they weren’t guilty of what they are being accused of. It is tough to think of people believing with all their being that you are guilty of some awful deed when you know for certainty that you didn’t do what you are accused of doing. If the accusations turn out to be true then I will be ready to see the guy pay the price for it. But I don’t want to see any one pay the price for a crime until we are sure they committed it.