God delivered David from Saul’s hand again, and David now accuses Saul before Jonathan, Saul’s son. I simply want to take the opportunity given in this narrative to consider the difference between Biblical and unbiblical accusations. Are Christians able to offer accusations against kings, rulers, pastors, or one another? What ever would be a circumstance in which a God-fearing man or woman may accuse anyone or anything?
1 Samuel 20:1-11
Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said to Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my iniquity? And what is my sin before your father, that he is seeking my life?”
He said to him, “Far from it, you shall not die. Behold, my father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. So why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!”
Yet David vowed again, saying, “Your father knows well that I have found favor in your sight, and he has said, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.’ But truly as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is hardly a step between me and death.”
Then Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.”
So David said to Jonathan, “Behold, tomorrow is the new moon, and I ought to sit down to eat with the king. But let me go, that I may hide myself in the field until the third evening. If your father misses me at all, then say, ‘David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city, because it is the yearly sacrifice there for the whole family.’ If he says, ‘It is good,’ your servant will be safe; but if he is very angry, know that he has decided on evil. Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the Lord with you. But if there is iniquity in me, put me to death yourself; for why then should you bring me to your father?”
Jonathan said, “Far be it from you! For if I should indeed learn that evil has been decided by my father to come upon you, then would I not tell you about it?”
Then David said to Jonathan, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?”
Jonathan said to David, “Come, and let us go out into the field.” So both of them went out to the field.
- David is hurt.
- David seeks to understand why Saul is seeking to kill him.
- David asked Jonathan to consider the evidence on his behalf.
In contrast, when he accused David:
- Saul was merely convinced about something in his own heart and mind.
- Saul sought to deal with the problem he perceived without any real evidence of wrongdoing.
Since we don’t want to base our doctrine on descriptive passages, let’s consider Scripture’s imperatives. First, Exodus 23:1-9:
You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute. If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him. You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just. You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.
and Leviticus 19:15-18:
You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
The Biblical instruction we have is to do no injustice in judgment but to judge fairly. This is what it means for us to love our neighbors as ourselves according to the Law—to judge justly. This is the second greatest commandment according to Jesus (Matthew 22:39). Those who make unfounded assumptions and habitually accuse others do not love others and have broken the foremost command in God’s Law concerning their relationships with other people, the second greatest commandment! Don’t check out yet. I’ve got some good news at the end even for those who break the second greatest commandment in the Law.
In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus teaches us how to address someone who sins. (1) we reveal the sin to him or her in private. (2) If he or she does not listen, we take another witness with us to confirm the facts. (3) If he or she still does not listen, the church is to be made aware. (4) If he or she does not listen to the church, he is to be as an outsider. Where two or three are gathered for the purpose of just judgment in Christ’s name, He is there in their midst. This is why no accusation against an elder (pastor) is to be received except on the basis of two or three witnesses judging justly; this type accusation deals with a pastor’s ongoing sin (1 Timothy 5:19-20). Addressing false teaching is a separate issue (Cf. Romans 16:17-18; Colossians 2:8; 1 John 4:1; Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 John 1:10; Acts 20:28).
How to be a bully
Jesus’s instruction follows from the Old Testament Law. Our primary responsibility to our fellow people is just judgment; That’s what it means for us to love our neighbors. Satirically, I am going to reveal how you, too, can be the bully you’ve always wanted to be!
- Follow your heart (Cf. Jeremiah 17:9).
- Saul followed his heart and it led him to make an assumption about David, accuse David, and seek to unjustly kill David. Contrary to Saul, David sought to understand by considering the facts.
- Make assumptions about others.
- You know what they say about assumptions? They are usually wrong, show our own ignorance, and cause us to treat others unjustly.
- Accuse others based on our own feelings, thoughts, and assumptions.
- Oh, this describes most of the political memes out there. It also describes most complaints I get to hear on a regular basis.
- Act on your own accusations.
- Whether it means harassing someone, offering public accusations, taking it upon yourself to put someone on trial, threatening someone, or trying to kill someone, you need to drive the point home by making sure the world knows how terrible or unqualified that person is and how good and right you are.
You might know a bully. You might have been the bully. I know I have, and I hate myself for ever being like that. Here is where we get to the good news I promised. The Law was given to reveal how insufficient we are. It was given to reveal our unrighteousness and hand us over to our sin (Deuteronomy 31:26; Romans 5:20-21; Galatians 3:19).
Saul made an assumption about David. In his accusation, he became the very danger he wrongly accused David of being. That’s the sort of hypocrisy that accompanies bullying others. Recently, I had someone condemn me for making judgments—not even realizing that, in condemning me he or she made a worse and unjust judgment. Bullying leads us to hypocrisy. Another person at one of the churches we’ve served came to me in order to complain about all the gossipers in the local church and threatening to leave the fellowship, not realizing that her condemnation of the church body was the very sort of gossip he or she was guilty of in that meeting. Unjust judgments lead to bullying lead to hypocrisy. God’s Law has accomplished its first purpose. Instead of having the attitude of a petty child, we do not desire that hypocrites and bullies “get what’s coming to them.” We desire sin to accomplish its work in their lives so that they come to trust in Christ alone for their salvation. God’s Law points us to His Gospel. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory; Christ alone is just and the justifier of His people (Romans 3:23-26).
Isn’t it great to have our insufficiencies and injustices revealed by God’s Law? Isn’t it great to have all of our mistakes and missteps forgiven in Christ alone by Grace? Isn’t it great to rest in Christ and have His perfect Law sanctify us until we are completely mature creatures? If you are the bully or hypocrite, we hold no grudge and we do not condemn you. We desire that you experience the same reconciliation with Christ we have experienced. Repent; The kingdom of Heaven is at hand—and its so, so sweet for those who are in Christ.