Two or Three Witnesses

Boss harassing

Eight

Eight.

That is the number of women who have accused senate candidate Roy Moore of wrongdoing. It was actually hard selecting the right word for the accusations since they vary from true crimes to a creepy affinity for dating younger girls.

This sermon is not to tell you what to believe about the allegations, the accusers, or Roy Moore.

Instead, as headlines are filled with accusations of sexual improprieties…I want to see if we can establish some guidelines on how we should deal with them. Since Moore is a professing Christian, his case seems an especially apropos starting point for the conversation.

However…one quick sidetrack…

Coming to Light

One of my favorite people on Twitter is Karen Prior, an author and professor at Liberty University. Back on October 12 she tweeted:

From flags to sex, to politics, to entertainment & power, America’s idols are being revealed–a moment of grace, if only we will receive it.1

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

The plethora of news of men, often powerful men, abusing women is disheartening…but, in some respects, it should actually be heartening. So many have suffered in silence, while others have idolized men undeserving of the pedestals they are placed on. It is truly a moment of grace, if only we will receive it. It is also a taste of what the future holds, according to Luke 12:2-3:

2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

When it comes to sexual harassment and abuse, so much has been hidden. So much has been done in the dark. So much has been whispered.

In the end, it will be revealed. It will be exposed by the light. It will be loudly exposed.

Praise God!

And I praise God that, finally, it appears American society is removing scales from its eyes and admitting we have a horrible problem that has worsened, and sometimes ruined, the lives of its victims.

Witnesses

As I mentioned in the opening, Roy Moore has eight accusers. Let’s think about that number as we turn to Matthew and hear Jesus’ guidance on dealing with allegations:

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15—17).

How many witnesses does it take to establish a charge?

Two or three. This is not the only place where that number is set. For instance, way back in the time Israel was formed, Moses said:

15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 20 And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot (Deuteronomy 19:15-20).

“Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses…”

How does that compare to the eight accusers of Roy Moore?

That’s a bit of a trick question.

It does not compare. Two or three are the number of witnesses. Eight is the number of accusations. Each accusation needs two or three witnesses. Although we are intelligent creatures, created in the likeness of God, and know the quantity of similar accusations should also be weighed…nobody can use Matthew 18 to claim the Bible says we must damn Moore.

However, as intelligent creatures we also know that evil people are often also intelligent, and purposely commit their crimes when there are no witnesses other than, perhaps, the victim.

They hide it. They do it in darkness. They whisper it.

So, let’s not be too strict with the word “witnesses.” It does not have to be a human being…it can be other forms of evidence. If anything, often other forms of evidence are more reliable. For instance, which is more convincing…the word of a fellow criminals who say a policeman abused someone, or the dash cam video that shows it?

People are untrustworthy…partially because of our sin-stained characters…but partially because of the limitations to human memory and human perceptions. Have a crowd of 100 witness the same thing and you’ll get 100 versions, often varying drastically.

However, back in Moses’ time…and in Jesus’ time…there were no dash cams, audio recorders, or even still cameras. There also the myriad police forensics tools that exist now.

So, inspired by the Spirit, both Jesus and Moses are basically saying, “Don’t take accusations at face value. Make sure there truly is evidence before passing judgment.”

People Will Lie

You have probably heard people say women should be believed whenever they make an accusation about rape…that women will never lie about something like that.

Of course, such an absolute statement is easily disproven because any one of us can go on Google right now and find documented cases.

Considering that, let’s reread what Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 19:15-20:

15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 20 And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot (Deuteronomy 19:15-20).

You don’t need Google to know people make false accusations. That people can be false witnesses.

And, that is why Deuteronomy makes it clear that everyone should be provided due process. Regardless of the type of crime they are accused of.

Now…don’t get me wrong…not all wrongdoing is equal. All sin is bad, but the Bible recognizes that different sins deserve different punishments. When it comes to salvation, all sin closes the doors to heaven without Jesus’ blood, but clearly a child telling a “white lie” is not the same as an adult committing cold-blooded murder.

And speaking of punishments, what did Moses say should happen to those who accuse others falsely?

“You shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother.”

Basically, if you knowingly, falsely accuse someone of murder that will put them away for 20 years, you should be put away for 20 years.

If you if you knowingly, falsely accuse someone of rape that will ruin their lives, your life should be ruined.

“So you shall purge the evil from your midst. And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you.”

How often do you see that in action in the modern world? I am not suggesting we need to implement that principle 100% today…but how often do you hear of severe penalties against false allegations? Penalties that vary based on the level of crime that was falsely accused?

It could be that I am just missing it…but it seems hardly ever.

Knowledge and Favoritism

Before we wrap up and I summarize, I want us to consider a couple more scriptures, starting with Luke 12:47-48:

47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

I already mentioned that not all sins are equal…and even the same sin isn’t always equal. The more you know you shouldn’t do something, the greater the sin is for you.

Getting back to what Moore is a accused of…assuming the accusers are telling the truth…and that Moore was a Christian back then…it would make his acts all the worse. And, if Moore is lying with his denials now…it would be almost unforgivable.

For our second-to-last biblical reference, please join me in reading Exodus 23:1-2:

23 “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2 You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, 3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.

If you are aware of the Roy Moore situation and I learn a couple of simple things about you, I can probably predict which side you’ll come down on.

If you are a liberal or a Never Trumper, you believe his accusers and think he should leave the senate race. And be drawn and quartered.

If you are a populist conservative, you either believe the accusations are damnable lies or there isn’t enough evidence.

That is because we pervert justice based on whether someone is on our side or not.

That is damnable.

And it is just as damnable to show partiality to the underdog as it is to show it to the rich, famous, and/or powerful.

Wrapping Up

Any sermon like this can be taken wrong…so I want to wrap up making a few things clear.

First, it is true that I have said that it is wrong to assume if a woman accuses a man of rape (or other sexual sin) that she isn’t lying.

However, all such accusations should be taken seriously.

Let me repeat that:

All such accusations should be taken seriously.

The same scriptures that say everyone should have due process show that victims should always have their day in court. Not dismissed. Not hush-hushed. Not attacked.

Don’t assume their accusations are true, but don’t ignore them.

Judge rightly.

Second, it probably appears I am taking Moore’s side.

I am not.

To be honest, I have absolutely no idea where the truth lies. Yes, generally where there is smoke there is fire, but not always. Considering the extensive coverage on social and mass media, is it really hard to believe that eight false accusations could come around same time? Especially considering “the ends justify the means” mentality of modern politics?

Not to mention, the press is conflating true crimes with questionable dating practices. Many of the accusers are basically saying, “An older guy liked dating teenagers.” That may be creepy, but it’s not a crime unless it is of kids in their early teens.

Is Roy Moore guilty? We’ll probably never know since the accusations are decades old and the situations will probably remain he saids/she saids.

The should be taken seriously…but the solution to being unable to know for sure is not to assume they are true. (Nor is it to assume they are all political hit jobs.)

Finally, ultimately you are only responsible for yourself.

You should not do what Moore is accused of doing.

You should not discourage women from reporting abuse.

You should not show favoritism based on accuser, accused, or the crime.

You should not skip due process.

Ultimately, you should follow this succinct statement from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in John 7:24:

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.

Everything I’ve said today can be summed up by those 10 words.

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.

Footnotes

1https://twitter.com/KSPrior/status/918655447485370368


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