Innocent Until Proven Guilty
There is no argument. One of the biggest media events of all time was the O.J. Simpson trial. Even though the creed of our country is, “innocent until proven guilty”, I admit that I had him convicted before the trial. The leaks that talked about DNA evidence, past abusive behavior, unexplained coincidences, and the pursuit of the Bronco convinced me that the true killer was behind bars.
I waited with great anticipation to see what the dream team of defense lawyers was going to do. I should not have been surprised at their tactic. It was very simple – try to cloud the issue and create reasonable doubt. Rather than deal with the guilt or innocence of your client, try to make other people the focus of the trial.
So, we had charges of racism on the police force, sloppiness in the lab, conspiracy among them all. And no O.J. on the witness stand. The result: “Not Guilty!”. Miscarriage of justice or the justice system at its best? Only time will tell.
In this text from John we see the leaders of the Jews using a similar tactic. They avoid the main issue and seek to divert attention.
The guards return from the Feast of Tabernacles. They give a sterling testimony: “No one every spoke the way this man does.” Realize what a bold testimony this is. These guards saw something special in Christ.
Notice how the leaders react. Do they ask what makes Him so compelling? No. Do they debate the merits of His claims? No. Do they say, “We’d like to hear Him too?” No.
They do three things
- They ridicule the guards (v.47) “You mean He has deceived you too?” The message is clear, they were asking how they could be so stupid and gullible. It’s a common form of argument – attack your opponent . . .perhaps you won’t have to deal with the issue. Watch this take place during the election process.
- They try to coerce through peer pressure. (v. 48) “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in Him?” The message again is clear. If the leaders don’t believe in Jesus, then anyone who has any sense (is cool), won’t believe in Him either.
- The belittle the opposition. (v. 49) “No, but this mob that knows nothing of the law – there is a curse on them.” Here they insult all believers . . . they are a gang, an unruly mob, the radicals of their day. The implication is clear – “If you don’t want to be known as a rebel . . . renounce Him.”
In all of this there is no hint of the real issue: “Who is Jesus?” But, Nicodemus tries to raise the issue with a well chosen question: “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him?” It’s a good question.
We can easily be critical of these Jewish leaders but we do exactly the same thing in our relationship with the Father. God’s standards are clear. However, when we are confronted with the sinfulness of our lives we begin diversionary tactics:
- We say we are not responsible because of our social conditioning . . .it’s societies fault.
- We plead ignorance . . . it’s the fault of the educational system
- We claim genetic predisposition . . . It’s God’s fault!!!
Charles Colson writes,
Mayor of Washington D.C. Marion Barry when he was filmed by the FBI with his hand in the cocaine jar, claimed he was a victim of a racist plot . . .Militant gay activist suffering from AIDS rarely acknowledge that their disease might be a consequence of their own behavior. Instead, they angrily blame the government for not yet finding a cur . . . People who develop lung cancer from years of heavy smoking sue the cigarette manufacturers.
The message is this: “I am not responsible for my behavior.”
A person is sent to prison for killing someone with his car while he was drunk. The TV cameras are rolling and the man exclaims, “This isn’t fair . . .after all, I was drunk!” The message: I shouldn’t have to accept the consequences of my behavior.
Consider the abortion debate. Sure, a woman has the right to choose. HOWEVER, she exercises that right when she chooses to risk pregnancy by engaging in a sexual relationship outside of God’s boundaries. She ends up pregnant and feel she should be free to dispose of the consequences of her behavior (a human being, no matter what the law says!). If you want freedom you must live with the consequences of that freedom. No consequences, no freedom.
In today’s world these kinds of smoke screens are working as well as O.J.’s defense. Many people are “getting away with it”. . . for now.
The Bible is clear, there is a future court where diversionary tactics will not work. God sees with perfect clarity and will strip away the nonsense.
The Bible is also clear that you and I are guilty of TREASON against God. We proclaim allegiance to the Lord yet give our best to the enemy. The facts are already in . . . we are guilty, guilty, guilty. The question now is: what are you going to do about it.
Steve Brown says, “There was a man sitting on a tack, and it was hurting. A psychologist then came along, saw the hurting man, and said, ‘You’ve got a problem, and it is the result of the kind of environment in which you grew up. Hurt is from an improper environment.’ Next, an economist came along and said, ‘Money is the root of all hurt. Let me help you with your portfolio.’ Then a minister cam along and said, ‘If you learn to praise the Lord in all your circumstances, you won’t hurt so much. Your spiritual life leaves something to be desired. Start reading your Bible and praying every day, and it will get better.’ Finally, a little girl came along and said, ‘Mister, why don’t you get off the tack?'”
We can respond to the reality of our sin by
- blaming others
- by justifying ourselves
- by trying to balance the bad with good
- or by confession (getting off the tack)
The Bible tells us that Jesus came to give His life as a substitute for us. He came to take the just penalty for our sin. And, He tells us if we will entrust ourselves to Him, we will be declared innocent by His grace. This is the gospel message.
We will never see revival in the church until we confess our sin.
We will never see revival in our homes until we become honest about our sinfulness.
We will not see revival in our country by a change of President but by a change of heart.
So here’s the question: Are you digging behind smoke, mirrors, deception? Are you making excuses for your behavior hoping to confuse God? Do you really think you are fooling anyone? Or are you honest before the Lord? Have you brought him the broken pieces of your sinful life and entrusted them to Him? Have you thrown yourself on the mercy of the court? What you do will make a difference in the world.
In his book IN CONTEMPT, L.A. Prosecutor, Christopher Darden summed up his disillusionment with the verdict of the O.J. Simpson trial in these words:
I never got a chance to cross-examine him [Simpson]. And I didn’t want to anymore. I just wanted to talk to him, to make sure he knew that he hadn’t fooled all of us and that his ‘Dream Team’ hadn’t fooled most Americans. I wanted to tell him that there was another court that would hear his case one day, with a Judge who could separately try racist cops and murderers. A court where everyone will have to account for his actions alone. A court where the only witnesses will be the eyewitnesses Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown.
When we stand before the Lord on the final day, we will need more than excuses . . . we will need a Savior.
If O.J. Simpson was guilty, then there was no way that he will hear the declaration of “not guilty” in eternity. There is no way he will be acquitted apart from God’s provision of a Savior.
And neither will you.