It is never fun to be accused of something you did not do. As a minister, my family and I seem to live in a glass house and some folks feel it is always their prerogative to throw stones. In the past, I lost a job (I was sort of trying to leave anyway) because someone heard me say something that I DID NOT say in a sermon...and would not listen to the tape (yes, it was a while back) to clarify what I DID say.
But this was taken to a whole other level last Wednesday (January 6). I had picked up Rachel at the high school to take her to an orthodontist appointment. Rather than going to 412, I thought it would be quicker to go the “back” way.
As we were driving on Jefferson, I saw flashing blue lights in my rear view mirror...so I pulled into a parking lot to let the police car go by. Imagine my surprise when the officer stopped behind me!
Apparently he had seen me “cut through a parking lot to avoid the intersection of Main and Lincoln.” Please think about that for a moment...I was coming from the high school (my daughter in the front seat with her backpack would have vouched for this) and was on Main, I passed through the intersection of Main and Lincoln (the light was even green) and turned left onto Jefferson: what parking lot could I possibly have cut through to avoid that intersection? (for those not familiar with the streets of Siloam Springs, here is a map of the area involved: map of area involved...fyi, SSHS will be just out of view on the top right of the map)
I very politely asked him that question...he answered with, “Can I see your license, registration, and proof of insurance?”
The long and short is he “let me off with a warning for ‘unsafe driving.’” I think I found myself wishing he would give me a ticket, just so I could go to court and prove how wrong he was…and maybe even issue him a citation for harassment of an innocent citizen. Well, after he delivered this “good news” his last words were, “Don’t cut through any more parking lots.”
Because of this 10 minute delay, we were 5 minutes late to the orthodontist...and still waited 15 minutes to be seen (actually they are pretty good about being on time).
So how do you respond when you are falsely accused? Do you rant and rave and make a fuss? Do you start making accusations of your own (true or not)? Both of these actually escalate the situation, by the way. Or do you speak kindly to the one making the accusation in hopes of diffusing a tense situation?
Jesus actually tells us how to respond in Matthew 5:11-12. He says: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Important note: this is when people falsely accuse you. If you actually did it, and they accuse you, that is a whole different story.
Paul also speaks about this subject in 1 Corinthians 4:12-13 where he writes, “When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered (i.e. falsely accused), we answer kindly.”
Peter tells us, “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:13-16).
Earlier, though, Peter reminds us, “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
The ultimate “false accusation” was when Jesus was falsely condemned and took our place on the cross to pay for our sins…suddenly a false “warning for ‘unsafe driving’” doesn’t seem nearly as big a deal.