Have you ever been held hostage by slander, surmisings, suspicions, misunderstandings, or circumstances beyond your control?
Whether it is the extreme ordeal of an untrue accusation of murder, as was faced by an Australian pastoral couple in the eighties, or linkage in the public view with the mindless actions of cultic or fringe groups, or unjust conclusions and judgments about your motives by parishioners or church administrators, the impact is the same. Your good name, your reputation, is held hostage to what "they believe."
How should you react, especially when you know that you are innocent of the charges, and that the actions that have been judged so wrong by others came from good intentions and benevolent motives? Here are some suggestions that should help you develop an appropriate response.
Recognize your enemy. Our ultimate enemy, of course, is Satan, who delights in falsehood and misunderstanding and whose purpose is to obscure and hide the truth at every opportunity. But often the immediate enemy appears in visible and tangible forms, promoting misunderstanding. Typically, however, the real enemy is not a person. Your enemy is much more likely the lack of opportunity to explain fully the facts, to analyze adequately all possible options, or to show how the misunderstood situation came to be.
Some people take time to listen and keep an open mind. Others reject even direct evidence that would correct their previously determined conclusions. What is your challenge? Is it to find time and place to review all the available information? or is it preconceptions and closed minds?
Recognize your allies. Obviously our heavenly Father is the greatest ally of all that is truthful and enlightening. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you speak appropriately the truth in love and to keep your hearers' hearts open to receive that which is accurate and factual.
If you choose to speak, a carefully reasoned recital of facts is preferable to an emotionally charged litany. When dealing with people problems, take extra steps to clarify situations and offer more than the minimum required opportunities for resolving conflict. Pay scrupulous attention to facts. Be prepared to document them. Avoid opinions and assumptions.
Just as the pressure of time can be an enemy to accuracy, so the passing of time can become a great ally. The old expression "time will tell" often proves to be the best solution. As events progress and evidence evolves, truth often be comes clear simply from falsehood's inability to sustain itself in the light.
Remember your options. Even in the midst of a challenging situation, remember you do have options. Jesus often refused to answer His accusers. Likewise you have the choice of saying nothing. Once uttered, words cannot be retrieved. And no one can force you to discuss a topic on which you choose to remain silent.
Avoid judgmental categorization. Clearly state who you are, but carefully avoid characterizing others. Do not be come an information resource or commentator on the actions, motives, beliefs, or thinking of individuals who differ with you or whose behavior may be holding your reputation hostage. De fine yourself and your position and let others answer for their own actions or beliefs. Remember that when you "sling mud" you are always losing ground!
Take the long view. Look at things from the perspective of eternity and re member the promise that in all things—even bad things—God works for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). In the midst of a crisis, you may reassess your own situation and deter mine that you must side with truth rather than leave error unchallenged. You may make eternal decisions prompted by the injustice of false accusations against the innocent.
In any event, remember that "this too shall pass." You can keep hope alive by focusing on that glad day when Jesus will return. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!