Responding to a False Accuser
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
1 Peter 5:8-10
THE POWER BEHIND THE FALSE ACCUSATION:
Satan, in Hebrew, means “adversary” and is described as the “accuser of our brothers” in Revelation 12:10. We see this in the book of Job, the oldest book in the Bible, where he assaults Job’s character, saying that Job was faithful to God simply because of God’s blessings and favor.
1 Peter describes the devil as the apex predator, using the image of a lion at hunt, hungry for prey. The apostle presents him as a clear and present danger to every believer. This is not because Satan is omnipresent, but because his legions of angels are present in this fallen world. Not only that, but the world system and its distorted values, as well as our own fallen, sinful nature, are at league with his purposes and plans.
How does he “devour” believers? One, he incites us to sin through temptation and we see this clearly when he tried to tempt Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:1-11). This temptation is further inflamed by our own already sinful inclinations. Like a master chess player, he understands our own desires and weaknesses, and uses them against us. The pattern is always the same, though the bait can vary from person to person. James warns us, saying:
14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. (James 1:14-16)
Two, he accuses you of past sins, using them to show how unworthy you are of God’s grace (this is true by the way) and therefore, how you can never be accepted by God (this is untrue. Jesus makes us righteous by His blood). Jesus called him the father of lies (John 8:44) and called those who do his bidding the children of the devil.
THE HUMAN PAWNS OF THE ACCUSER OF BRETHREN:
Satan can also enlist people to wittingly or unwittingly do his bidding. He uses flesh-and-blood people to slander you and accuse you, dredge up past dirt to fling at you, cause division and conflict, or incite others to gossip about your “sins,” both real (but repented of) and manufactured. No trick is too low, no method too ignoble, for the devil. He will use people you think are your friends, or those who were formerly friends: in short, anyone or everyone to tear you down.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1. Sometimes, the accusation contains some grain of truth and you can use that to force yourself into self-examination. Welcome the process then as part of what refines us. Bring it all out before God in confession and repentance. After all, it is God who is the judge of all men, not the devil, and not the person slandering you. What they have to say does not matter if you have settled your sin and guilt at the foot of the cross and there find forgiveness. Romans 8:31-39 is a powerful assurance for all who are under attack. Paul here calls us to draw confidence not from ourselves but from God: If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
2. ASK FOR WITNESSES AND EVIDENCE. Those in leadership know that they are more often than not objects of gossip, slander and false accusation. As such, Paul tells Timothy: 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. (1 Timothy 5:19) Accusations against an elder are to be taken seriously, but only if there is corroborating evidence and witnesses. Otherwise, they are to be ignored. It is also possible to engage first at the level provided in Matthew 18:15-16, or a one on one confrontation or a mediated one. The consequence, if proven, is equally heavy if the person persists in unrepentance: 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. (1 Timothy 5:20)
3. DO NOT RETALIATE. This is when the accuser is human. Romans 12:17-21 states it unequivocally: 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21, see also 1 Peter 3:9-17) Retaliation, a desire for revenge, often couched in a sense of desiring justice, is to arrogate to oneself what is God’s own prerogative. Cry out to God for justice, but do not take matters into your own hands.
This is something many Christians know, but something that everyone struggles with, and the line between wanting justice and wanting revenge can be a very thin one indeed. Now there may be a time when it becomes necessary to respond, but let it be done at the right place and time and the right venue. Do not rant about it on social media – if there was any true Christlike love in the heart of your accuser, he or she would obey what the Bible commands: to bring the issue straight to you (Matthew 18:15). Truth will always prevail against a false accusation (Proverbs 18:17).
It will be difficult, and sometimes you have to call on every ounce of self-control to resist the urge to fire back. Many times, you simply cannot depend on your own willpower, and this is a good thing since it forces you to rely on God’s own resources and ability. More on that below.
4. RESIST THE DEVIL. 1 Peter commands us to resist him (1 Peter 5:9), knowing that he accuses all the other brothers and sisters as well. In 1 Peter 5:6-7, this command to resist is prefaced with the call to humble ourselves before God. God is not deaf, dumb, blind or indifferent and will one day defeat the arch-accuser and all his minions, both human and demonic. James 4:7 contains the same call, telling us to Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7) Paul couches his instruction in Ephesians 6 using martial terms, drawing from the imagery of a Roman soldier: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. In all occasions, the three writers calls the believer to stand and resist, not by one’s own strength and ability, but by the Lord’s.
5. ENTRUST YOURSELF TO THE LORD. Peter calls us to emulate the example made by Jesus Christ: 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:21-23). Commit your cause, your life, to him who judges justly and you will not mind what the demons or men have to say. Peter also says: cast[ing] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7, see also 1 Peter 4:19). Run to the Lord. Entrust everything to him.
6. PRAY FOR YOUR ACCUSER. Pray that God may grant them repentance (Matthew 5:44, Acts 11:18) to see the error of their ways. Do not harbor anger (Matthew 5:21-26). Be ready and willing to forgive (Matthew 6:12,14-15), just as the Lord has so graciously forgiven you (Matthew 18:21-35).
7. PROTECT YOUR INTEGRITY. Not by retaliation but by humble submission to God. Paul tells Timothy (and through him, all of us): Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16). Hold fast to the truths of God’s word. Obey them in your life. Watch your words, actions, and thoughts, and bring them to submission to Jesus Christ. Remember that if you are in Christ, your identity is hidden in Christ, and therefore you should live a life that is worthy of your calling (Ephesians 4:1). This is not a legalistic to-do list but a biblical examination of yourself and a deliberate act of finding your treasure and your pleasure in serving and obeying the Lord. This is not about merely protecting your image, for God will bring to light our own hypocrisies and inconsistencies.
8. ASK FOR PRAYER. In 2 Corinthians 1:11, Paul thanks his readers for their faithful prayers, particularly in their hour of greatest peril (2 Corinthians 1:8-10). Open up the struggle, the burden, to trustworthy brethren. Seek godly counsel (cf. Proverbs 11:14, and be willing to listen, even if you seem inclined to do something else). You are not alone in this struggle, for you have fellow brothers and sisters who will come alongside you in prayer.
At the wake of every demonic and human attack on us is suffering, even for the saints. Christ himself promised that His followers will be persecuted (John 15:20). Sometimes we will suffer wrongfully, and sometimes, if we are honest, we know that will also suffer as consequences of our own sins – both past sins and present ones ( Peter 4:12-19). Repent of the latter, and endure in the former, trusting that 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)