Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Do you look like the devil? J’accuse!

In 1898, French writer Emile Zola wrote an open letter to the President of France in defense of an Army general being tried for treason. In the process of defending the general, Zola accused the government of judicial wrongdoing and related misdeeds. His famous letter was published on the front page of the newspaper under the simple title, “J’accuse!

French for “I accuse,” this exclamation is flung regularly at/by politicians, business leaders, Occupiers, and even Christians, both justly and unjustly.

We’ve all heard the adage, especially around Thanksgiving, “You are what you eat!” Okay, you won’t literally turn into a turkey when you eat turkey. But, when it comes to behavior, you can look like how you speak.

A devil by any other name is still diabolical

In the Bible, Satan is labeled, among other things, as the “accuser.” In Revelation 12, he is characterized as accusing the faithful before God day and night. Satan doesn’t recognize redemption and forgiveness.

His scriptural names include diabolos, katēgoros, and katēgōr.  In English, the meanings of these names are translated devil, false accuser, slanderer. A more detailed definition includes prone to slander, slanderous, accusing falsely, a calumniator, false accuser, slanderer. Most telling, the terms are used metaphorically “applied to a man who, by opposing the cause of God, may be said to act the part of the devil or to side with him.” (Thayer and Smith. "Greek Lexicon entry for Diabolos". "The New Testament Greek Lexicon".)

Have you ever passed on a rumor about someone? Been the initiator of a lie about someone else? Falsely accused another person? Continued to disparage a person’s past even though they had confessed and changed? Shared how you believe you were wronged by someone else while never directly going to the one you believed wronged you?

One of Satan’s key ploys is to bring up past, forgiven sins over and over and over, hoping to wear us down and drive us away from grace. When we engage in accusatory behavior, we take on the appearance of the devil. In a sense, we become little satans.

Advocating for the Accuser

In the church I grew up in, it was tough going for those who sought salvation yet struggled with assumed and real sins. Smoking, lusting, gambling, and drinking were biggies. None of the “faithful” believed that smokers and drinkers could be saved. Even candy cigarettes were off limits! And a teen going through puberty was doomed.

Regardless of the failing, the tongues wagged and that was that. Once flagged a sinner, or worse – a backslider, you were pretty much an outcast. It’s no wonder people have since flocked away from that and similar church situations. What’s the point in going to church where grace is not the norm?

Today, self-righteous “Christians” look down their noses at those inside and outside the church who they’ve decided are somehow beyond God’s grace. Much of the accusations spread are lies. Even when based in truth, these "Christians" behaving like little satans forget that forgiveness is supposed to be their response. And forgiveness means not fomenting ongoing rumors about past failings, real or perceived.

But it’s the truth!

Appealing to the fact that an accusation is based in truth does not make it okay to continue spreading stories. The Bible lays out a process for dealing with situations where someone has wronged another. It starts with private, loving confrontation. The goal is always restoration. And once the matter is settled, the parties involved need to shut up about it.

However, too many refuse to follow biblical process wanting instead to find self-righteousness in secretly destroying the reputation of the person they are accusing. They never face the one they are accusing, but go all around them seeding lies in the minds of their friends and colleagues, claiming to be wounded, and seeking pity. Confronting their “enemy” biblically would mean losing their status as a victim.

They would rather advocate for the cause of Satan than live out the call of Christ. One could legitimately call into question their claim of being Christian.

Whenever we falsely or secretly accuse another, we are voiding the image of God in us and putting on the aura of Satan, the perennial accuser of the saints.

Put on Christ and put off the Devil

So what should be our attitude toward those who we believe to have failed in their faith walk? We covet forgiveness for ourselves and pray that God’s promised forgetfulness will cover our own failings. We should deal with the sins of others following this example of our Heavenly Father:
Psalm 103:8-12 (NIV) states, “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
When we keep the sins of others alive, we are forfeiting our own forgiveness. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus taught us that, “…if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

When it comes to another's sin, our response is to forgive as we have been forgiven, 70 x 7 and beyond, covering their failing with the love of a gracious Lord. Refusing to do so puts us in spiritual jeopardy and on the side of Satan.


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