The Weekly Epistle 2/28/24

Hi Church Family,

Someone joked that a jury is, “Twelve people chosen to decide who has the best lawyer.”
Twice now I have been summoned to serve on jury duty. The most recent was this past January in which I was excused due to my responsibilities as minister. The first time I had been summoned was when I was serving as pastor in upstate NY. On that occasion, being a minister had no bearing on whether I would be selected or not. 

During the selection process, one man during the questioning process said, “My philosophy is everyone is guilty until proven innocent.” The judge replied, “You mean, innocent until proven guilty.” And the man answered, “No, I mean guilty until proven innocent.” As you would imagine that man was immediately dismissed. 

Guilty until proven innocent! Is that how we view other people? Do we assume a person is guilty until he or she proves otherwise? Do we make a certain judgment then look for evidence to support our case? 

Guilty until proven innocent. Let’s think about this as it relates to the criticism or accusations from others. Our first reaction to someone’s criticism can be one of defensiveness. We will then feel the need to prove to others that they are wrong. I am not addressing the need we may have at times to defend our integrity or when we need to provide truth to fill in the gaps of wrong information. 

But what difference does it make that God has declared us not guilty because of Jesus’ work on the cross? Does it matter that in Christ we are free from condemnation? Isn’t there really only one judgment that matters? And it isn’t in the courtroom of others’ opinions. Of course, there can be abuses to the line, “I only have to answer to God.” This thinking has led to a lot of crazy immoral behaviors and bullies in the ministry who dangerously and wrongly removed themselves from accountability. 

But shouldn’t “no condemnation” in Christ reshape our response to accusations? Shouldn’t followers of Jesus be the least defensive people on the planet? Our identity in Christ anchors us. That place of security in Jesus Christ can protect us from getting all bent out shape in the face of being questioned. It can actually lead us to that place of spiritual growth as we humble ourselves before God, allowing Him to show us what it is we need to see about ourselves and even about the accuser. 

A posture of no condemnation frees me from having to prove myself or worse to perform in such a way that proves your wrong. I am not guilty until proven innocent. I have already been declared not guilty. That doesn’t make us innocent of charges or accusations against us, but nothing ever brought against us can remove anything bought for us in Jesus Christ. 

One writer summed it up this way, “No one- not your friend, not your dad, not even Satan himself- can damn you with information, however right they may be.” 

In Christ, Pastor Brian