What to Do with an Accusation of Sexual Sin
A very important question this week on the podcast is about what to do with an accusation of sexual sin. The context of the question is that this is an accusation of sexual sin on the part of a minister of the gospel. So not just somebody else. In the context of the question, we’re also not talking about abuse. So if we were talking about abuse, something illegal, we would say more and different things that I’m going to say this week. But this is a very specific question, not about abuse. What do we do with an accusation of sexual sin on the part of a minister? We need to be honest that this is very serious. It’s very serious because it’s very clear in places like 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1, it’s very clear that a pastor is supposed to be above reproach. He’s supposed to be a man who is devoted to his one wife in their sexual relationship. He’s not supposed to be a man who is defined by or guilty of sexual sin. It’s also a really serious and important question because we actually see violations of this a lot lately. It seems nearly monthly. In my experience, we’re getting new revelations of a fallen pastor, new revelations of a guy who was not inside and privately what he appeared to be outside and publicly. And we really must, as the Church of Jesus Christ, as faithful Christians, we must protect believers from sexual sinners. We must protect the ministry from sexual sinners. And we also need to protect the innocent from false accusations. That’s folded into the question, what do we do with an accusation of sexual sin? The question could have been, what do we do with a pastor who’s guilty of sexual sin? That wasn’t the question. The question is, what do we do when someone is accused of this? So we’re not just dealing with how do we protect the church from sexual sin. We’re dealing with how we protect the innocent from a false accusation.
What Scripture Teaches
The Bible gives us a big help with this. The Bible, as it always does on practical matters, is very helpful and very clear. It gives us a standard of evidence. In Deuteronomy 19:15, listen to what the Bible says “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.” Deuteronomy 19 isn’t the only place in the Bible where we read that we also read about it in places like Deuteronomy 17:6 and Matthew 18:16 and 2 Corinthians 13:1, and 1 Timothy 5:19, over and over and over again you have a biblical standard of evidentiary testimony, that you can’t just have one witness that will not suffice, you must have two witnesses, or three. So the biblical standard for entertaining an accusation is the evidence of two or three witnesses. This is very important because the Bible does not agree with the voices out there today that say we listen to one accusation and we find a person guilty based on that. This whole guilt by accusation is not something that is biblical. It’s actually since it’s not something that’s biblical; it’s actually something that’s very, very harmful. If your advice and your recommendations are out of accord with what God says in his Word, then you will be unfaithful, and you will be hurtful to people. The Bible understands that false accusations destroy ministries and rip apart churches. It hurts people. The Bible says, hey, accusation charges must be proven. We’re not allowed to do someone in on my word versus your word. And so if you are going to figure out what to do with an accusation of sexual sin, then you need this thing called evidence. You’ve got to find other evidence. Before we’re going to take action against somebody for an accusation of sexual sin, an affair, adultery, whatever. We need to find evidence. Does the person making the accusation have other evidence? Are there text messages or eyewitnesses? Are there other pieces of information that can come along and corroborate what they’re saying? One big piece of information that you discover when you ask questions is the person they’re accusing might confess. It’s always right and proper and the right and careful way to ask the person being accused, is this true? Did this happen? And many times, when they’re guilty, they will admit to their guilt. But we have this situation where when there is an accusation, we must have evidence. If the other person denies it, then the person accusing must have evidence to corroborate their claim. Now, that’s the answer to the question.
Don’t Throw Innocent People to the Wolves
Here’s the exhortation that comes after the answer. I want to encourage you not to be a person and not to be a part of a church that throws innocent people to the wolves. One of the main things I think a church needs to be and to do in this age of confusion on this issue is we need to be a body; we need to be a church, we need to be individual Christians who stand for the innocent. And that means not being a church that throws innocent people to the wolves. There are two ways to do that on this issue. There are two ways to be wrong and throw innocent people to the wolves. First of all, you can let a guilty pastor whose guilt has been proven. You can let him slink off, go away quietly, and find another place to be immoral and sinful. That is wrong. When you do that, you’re throwing innocent people to the wolves. The innocent people at the next ministry, the innocent people at the next church. The woman he’s going to start flirting with at the next church, you are throwing those innocent people to the wolves. When we discover, when we prove sexual sin in the life of a pastor, that pastor needs to be rebuked and he needs to be fired. That needs to happen as quickly as possible, lest we throw innocent people to the wolves.
But there’s another way to throw innocent people to the wolves. And that is by hanging innocent people out to dry. That is by slinking off of this evidentiary standard and going with guilt by accusation, and this is happening today. I’m telling you, there are churches out there, there are leaders out there who know there’s a Twitter mob, and the Twitter mob knows leaders know they’re there. They’re afraid of the Twitter mob. They’re afraid of what’s going to happen on social media. They don’t want to be tarred and feathered. And so they toss innocent people overboard to save their hide and to save their reputations. And when you do that, you are violating the Bible. You are violating biblical justice, and you are throwing innocent people to the wolves. There are times, many times in leadership, many times in our churches, where we need to be people of courage. And we need to say, hey, you might be a valuable, loved, cherished, an important biblical leader, but you crossed a biblical line. It was wrong, and you’re out. That’s hard, but we need to do it. There are going to be other times when we say to somebody, hey, listen, you are being wrongfully accused, the evidence is in your favor, or there is no evidence against you, and we are going to stick with the Bible, and we are going to stick with you. We hope you’re telling the truth. We’re going to trust the Lord, but we are not going to throw you overboard to feed a Twitter frenzy. We are going to be a church that stands up for innocent people. And I think that is what you do with an accusation of sexual sin.