From Mark 14:
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Shortly thereafter, Jesus was sent to Pontius Pilate who asked the question, “Are you the king of the Jews?”. Jesus replied, “You have said so.” According to those familiar with the nuances of the Greek language in which the New Testament was originally written, Jesus’ response was the strongest affirmation that could possibly be given. In our language, it might expressed, “Absolutely, let there be no doubt, I am the king of the Jews!”
Pilate then asked Jesus about the accusations and charges that were being brought against Him by the Jewish leaders. Jesus gave no answer. His response to the questioning that night is something we need to take note of. You see, He never once gave an answer to a FALSE accusation, or to their lies. The only time Jesus said anything, that night, was in response to the truth. When asked by the high priest, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of God?” Jesus responded with the truth. “I am.” In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus’ response to the high priest is recorded as the same type of affirmative response He gave Pilate. “You have said so.” – “You say that I am.” Jesus only answered to truth because the truth is, Jesus is the Son of God.
I said it’s worth noting because it takes strength and discipline to remain silent when someone slanders you or makes false accusations against you. The same can be said when someone attacks your faith, or, as I experienced recently, when they attack the work you do for ministry. Now I used the word ‘attack’ and that might be too strong of a word. It was more of a subtle jab yet the intent was very obvious. Without going into too much detail, I was on the receiving end of some rather indignant comments regarding the value, or lack thereof, of these devotional messages I’ve been sending to you all these past four years. That’s all I’ll say about that.
But I will say that my first impulse was to fire right back. But before my encounter with that person that day, I had been thinking of how Jesus responded, or I should say, how He did not respond to any of the slanderous accusations that were made against Him. In turn, I realized I didn’t owe that man any explanation for why I write these devotional messages. I know in my heart that it’s a calling, so I don’t have to justify myself before any one man. I only have to give an account to God. It is for the glory of God, not my glory. Jesus was a model of strength and discipline from the moment of His arrest till His death on the cross. Compared to what He was about to go through, being gracious in the face of verbal jabs should be a picnic. So I knew I had to be gracious.
As our Christian faith comes under increasing attack, and “attack” is the right word there, there are lessons we can learn from Jesus’ refusal to respond to lies and false accusations. He didn’t dignify any of it with a response. That’s the strength and discipline I was referring to. This is the same Jesus who spoke with authority, and not like one of the scribes – whenever he preached. Yet He saw no need to respond to lies and slanderous accusations. When confronted with lies about our Christian faith, or about the church, we need not get caught up in quarrels and arguments over the lies. We only need to commit ourselves to God’s truth and build on that truth.
So what if we are attacked and slandered personally? What if the attacker is not only attacking your faith and slandering the church, what if they are gunning for you and calling you out personally? What then? Like I said, when that person fired those indignant remarks my way, my first impulse was to fire back. And why was that? The answer is straightforward – PRIDE! Out of pride I nearly escalated that incident to a whole new level, and I would still be regretting it at this very moment. More often than not, when we find ourselves in those situations, we’re governed by pride instead of humility. And I believe that’s another reason Jesus gave no response. He was not governed by pride. He was the model of strength and discipline in that moment, and He was also the model of humility. In humility, he endured the insults and slander and false accusations, just as he later endured the cross.
But is there EVER a time when we should defend ourselves against lies and slander and personal attacks? Absolutely! Long before His arrest, Jesus was accused of being demon possessed, that He drove out demons in the name of Beelzebub, or Satan. And Jesus defended Himself against those accusations by pointing out their foolishness. But again, His defense was not motivated by pride. Whether the scribes realized it or not, by accusing Jesus of driving out demons in the name of the devil, they were actually glorifying the evil one. In His rebuke to the scribes, Jesus pointed out the foolishness of their accusations and at the same time he pointed out the danger of committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus’ motivation was to give glory to whom it rightfully belongs, to God the Father. His defense against the accusations of being demon possessed was never motivated by personal pride.
There is a passage in the book of Proverbs that comes to mind. It’s actually two verses from the 26th chapter. Proverbs 26 verse 4 says: Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. But then in verse 5, we read: Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. These is some very simple yet very Godly wisdom in those two verses. There is a time to speak up and a time to shut up. Jesus knew exactly when an answer was needed, and when He did not have to say anything.
Therefore, we need to use Godly wisdom when we come under attack. And the Bible clearly tells us that as we move closer to the day of our Lord’s return, we can expect attacks against us and our Christian faith to increase. There will be times when we need to give a response, and times when it will be more prudent to say nothing. In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote these words to the believers there, ‘”You say “Everything is permissible.” But not everything is beneficial.’ So before we respond to any lies or accusations made against us, we need to stop and consider if a response would be beneficial. Would it satisfy our sense of pride or bring glory to God? In all He did and said, Jesus was motivated by His desire to bring glory to the Father. We have the freedom to respond to criticism and lies and slander, but we should never respond out of pride, or out of retaliation. If we need to respond, it should always be motivated by our desire to bring glory to God. It was Jesus’ driving force. Let it be our driving force as well.