As Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, being heckled by the crowds, He was focused on His mission. Pilate asked Him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” and Jesus answered, “You have said so” (Matthew 27:12). Then the text says this: “But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?’ But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed” (vv. 12-14).
Jesus remained silent because His accusers didn’t deserve the time of day. From the very beginning of His ministry He was falsely accused because the things He said infuriated the religious leaders of the day. It angered them because left and right He would bring to light their hypocrisy. As He stood before Pilate with charges brought against Him, He didn’t need to respond. They didn’t deserve a response. His life spoke for itself. And this “greatly amazed” Pilate. Pilate was amazed that Jesus could stand there silent while all these charges were thrown at Him.
What is your gut reaction when you are falsely accused of something? Do you remain silent or do you attempt to defend yourself? Do you keep quiet or lash out in anger because your name is being tossed through the mud?
Because Jesus is sinless (Hebrews 4:15), we can’t fully put ourselves in His shoes because we deal with sin every day. However, I am sure we’ve all faced false allegations in our lifetime. The question for you, Christian, is this: how do you respond?
With anything in life, I think it’s wise to follow the example of Jesus in this circumstance. The first inclination is to defend ourselves. We crave having a good reputation. We want this! We want to be above reproach; we want people to respect us and have no ill will toward us. But that’s simply not the reality for all people. Because you follow Jesus, the world will hate you (John 15:18). We know and embrace this. Since the world hates us, there will be times when we are falsely accused. There will be times people say hurtful things about us they know aren’t true—but they do it anyway because it causes Christians to look bad. Take comfort, Christian: even when you’re made to look bad, remember that Jesus is still good. And we’re the ones who have Jesus.
And remember, many times your response is what the accuser is looking for. They want you to get worked up; they want you to cause a scene even when you’re the victim. It feeds their immaturity.
In the majority of these circumstances, the most Christlike thing you can do happens to be the least natural. And what is that? Don’t respond! Have you done something wrong? Have you sinned in a particular fashion as to warrant the accusation? If so, confess your sin(s), repent, and move on. But if you have not done anything wrong, stay silent, even when it goes against every fiber of your being.
Christian, please understand this: you don’t need to respond. You are a justified child of God. You have been purchased, bought by the blood of the Lamb. Who can bring a charge against God’s elect (Romans 8:33)? Nobody. You have nothing to prove. Trust in Jesus and ignore the allegations.
With that being said, we have a difficult time ignoring false accusations because we’re sinners. Though we’re justified in the eyes of God, we have that nagging sense of self-justification. We want to clear our name. In most occasions we decided to speak up. Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with responding. Gently respond if you’re able to do so. If you respond with gospel-mindedness, by all means—respond! Hit ’em with the gospel.
Unfortunately, our sin-saturated hearts don’t let us do that. Instead of calm responses to accusations—or no response—we quickly retort with fierce defensiveness. The desire to defend our name is good. That’s not the issue. The issue arises when we are so vehement to the point that it would be better to keep our mouths closed. “Well, you did this!” or “You did that!” we say. In our attempt to defend our reputation, we become one in the same with the accuser.
Here’s my point: we need to be aware of our emotions and natural inclinations. How do you usually respond to confrontation or accusations? Do you have a bad temper or can you keep yourself from getting too upset? Do you respond with gentleness and a call to repent in a loving manner? Or do you allow your righteous anger to take hold of you, transform into sinful anger, and lash out in tears?
Think about it. Be aware of your own shortcomings. If you believe you won’t respond well, then ignore. If you think you will respond with gentleness, then it’s probably fine for you to respond. It simply takes discernment. If you don’t know how you’d respond, ask your pastors or people close to you what the best course of action is. And before you do anything else, pray!
With all that said, in most cases, the best thing for you to do is ignore the accusation. Be like Jesus: respond when a response is warranted. If there’s no benefit for you to respond, then don’t reply. Sometimes a reply opens up the floodgates into a long, drawn-out argument. Don’t take the bait.
This article has been adapted from my book Gospel Smugness: Displaying Christlike Character in Evangelism.