Are You Guilty As Charged
I have seen several quotes and comments in this past year asking, “is there enough evidence to prove you are a Christian” or “would a jury find you guilty of being a Christian”.
How about a quick lesson in finding one guilty. In criminal court the burden of proof must be beyond reasonable doubt. Essentially this means that baring alien abduction or the one-armed man from The Fugitive, the evidence presented stands and gives a reasonable conclusion to a person with normal mental firmness that guilt or innocence has been established. (The legal dictionary version states “The term connotes that evidence establishes a particular point to a moral certainty and that it is beyond dispute that any reasonable alternative is possible. It does not mean that no doubt exists as to the accused’s guilt, but only that no Reasonable Doubt is possible from the evidence presented.”) Civil cases only require a preponderance of evidence which is a significantly lower standard of proof. (My CJC professors would be so proud.) An easier way to remember…beyond reasonable doubt will be 95-99% certainty, preponderance of evidence more like 55-60% certainty.
Given the current world environment and celebrity families of faith being attacked just based on where they attend church, much of the evidence may prove circumstantial. Circumstantial is sort of self defining. The circumstances lead a witness or investigator to logically believe X happened. Direct evidence is essentially eye-witness testimony. I am not going to give a full lesson here, but that hopefully will explain it enough for you to follow the rest of my statements.
I was a probation parole officer for a while. We spent a quality amount of time in court and questioning can be tricky. I never saw anything “Law & Order” caliber, but even a novice attorney can make you sweat on cross-examination. It is the nature and the excitement of the adversarial system. (Do you get the feeling I miss it? I do.)
Imagine for a moment you are on trial for being a Christian. What evidence would be presented? Going to church, teaching children or a small group, leading worship or even preaching are these factors that you could be accused of? What about the personal level? What happens when character witnesses are called?
Honestly, did your breath catch in your chest a small amount. Many of the people we casually encounter will not be able to testify to who we are. I am referring to the waitress at our favorite restaurant, the clerk at the local grocery or the barista at Starbucks. Maybe you have always been polite, but being polite does not make you a Christian. (Being rude does not make you a defender of the faith either.)
So the casual encounters are probably not the witnesses the prosecution and defense will call. Who? Who will they call to prove you are a Christian…or prove you are not? Your co-workers, your best friend, your children, your spouse or the people who live next door. I was raised not to worry about what others thought of me, but it is in our nature to want to be accepted. Have you been so acceptable to others they do not even know you are a Christian?
Contemplating these potential witnesses, I am comfortable many of my closer encounters will testify to the fact I am a Christian. But that leads me to additional evidentiary considerations. I think about the music that was on my cell phone for road trips, the last movie I watched, the TV shows I rush home to watch, the books in my Kindle library and the notes for the book I was writing for many years that is now put to rest as I endeavor on a new project. If old school NWA was still on my cell phone or 50 Shades of Grey saved on my Kindle and it was produced in court…would another Christian recognize me as one of their own.
It is a lot to think about. A great deal to contemplate. Does the faith we express with our mouths manifest in our lives? Does my fruit outweigh my fault?
I believe that I have reached a point in my relationship with God that my fruit is growing, healthy and ripe on the vine. There are areas growing a little slower than others like self-control. (I really like dessert and dislike cardio.) Those who know me best and have come to know me recently, would identify me as a Christian. My boss, parents, and many others would be able to tell you of a shift in my values and priorities.
My faith being between me and God is faulty thinking. I thought that way for many years. I was minding my business and ignoring what God has called each of us to do…share the Gospel. I talk about my faith much more. I am more open in conversations with random people to express God’s goodness in my life. Understand, I have much room for improvement, in fact we all do. The Holy Spirit continues to reveal to me things I need to cultivate or abandon in my life. The more I listen and obey, the stronger my faith grows.
So would I be convicted? If this blog were submitted as testimony and my close friends, family and associates called to testify…yeah, I would be convicted. I want it to be obvious even to my casual acquaintances that I love God and have a relationship with Him. I also want it to be obvious that I love and value others. I have some work to do…
I challenge you to push yourself so you can be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt.