As a teacher, I had to deal with kids who did dumb things. If I had an idea which kid threw a pencil across the room, I would look at my suspect and say something like, “Johnny, do you know who threw that pencil?” When the student replied with an automatic denial such as “It wasn’t me!” they were usually the culprit. While the meaning of the phrase has changed slightly from the days of Shakespeare we can usually tell who’s guilty because “methinks the lady doth protest too much.”
Often, when people are throwing false charges around, the best defense is not to defend. If you remain silent you will find that the accusations become more and more ridiculous. At least, that’s what Jesus experienced. He had been arrested by a mob sent by the chief priests and the elders. They had brought him to stand before the Sanhedrin and answer the charges. Except, they hadn’t arranged the false testimony well enough and they couldn’t get two witnesses to say the same thing until finally two liars talked about Jesus tearing down the Temple. Jesus was silent during all of this. “Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’” (Matthew 26:62-63)
Silence is powerful. People don’t like silence – especially when they’re accusing someone of doing wrong. They expect you to fight back and get down in the mud with them. They expect you to protest so much that your guilt will be obvious. Jesus understood that. Before the High Priest, He shut up and let the accusers rant and rave about the terrible things He had done. Only, none of the witnesses agreed. Perhaps they had paid good money for these false witnesses and were getting no return on their investment. Perhaps they had no one to coordinate the testimonies. I’m the kind of guy who would want to respond to lies told about me in this situation. You see criminal defendants expressing their opinions of witnesses who accuse them of criminal activity and the judge warning the lawyers to keep their clients quiet. That’s probably the way I’d be. Jesus didn’t respond. It took the High Priest ordering Jesus to speak about Himself before Jesus responded showing them that He truly is the Messiah. That was excuse enough to charge Him with blasphemy. They bundled him up and took Jesus to see Pilate because the one time He spoke, they twisted His words against Him.
Most of us aren’t involved in such serious situations, though. Sometimes, though, we deal with people who make false accusations about us. They may be about our work. They may be about our faith. You may be saving up the perfect rebuttal because you know what they’re planning to say to make you look bad. Instead of responding – try silence. Let them keep hurling abuse at you without getting angry or defending yourself. Then, when the time is right, find a way to show them the love and mercy of Jesus. Imagine the impact that would have on someone who might be harassing you. As followers of Christ, we don’t need to be defensive. What accusations can man make against us that would tear us away from our faith? What accusations could anyone make that would sever our relationship with God. Hint: God has never been surprised by anything I’ve said or done. Let the accusers accuse until they’re blue in the face. Walk silently with confidence in the God who loves You and died on the cross for you. Then, let them know how much God loves them.
Oh Lord, when people say bad things about me, let me be silent rather than starting an argument. Help me to know when the time is right to break the silence and share Your love with them.