paul argued in his defense, “neither against the law of the jews, nor against the temple, nor against caesar have i committed any offense.” but festus, wishing to do the jews a favor, said to paul, “do you wish to go up to jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” but paul said, “i am standing before caesar’s tribunal, where i ought to be tried. to the jews i have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. if then i am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which i deserve to die, i do not seek to escape death. but if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. i appeal to caesar.” then festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “to caesar you have appealed; to caesar you shall go.” [acts 25:8-12]


defensiveness vs. defense


i am oftentimes a defensive person.  when i am accused of sin, my first reaction is to spring into action, defending my motives, my character, my intentions, my reputation. i long for, and pray for a different heart:


know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. [james 1:19-20]


i want the first reaction–even the silent reaction in my fleshy heart to be: “where is there truth in the accusers statement, and what is the sin that the accuser that the isn’t pointing out that i am guilty of?” for any accusation leveled does not even begin to scratch the surface of the breadth and depth sins that i am actually guilty of. 


this does not mean, though, that we lay down and admit to every charge leveled against us, for at times, that would be lying: paul gives us a good way to handle the difference between defense, and defensiveness:


  • know what the charges are–then consider them: paul’s charges were about actual actions that he was taking–with places and events that could be clearly discerned, in our lives, it is more nuanced. the charges against us aren’t about we were in such-a-such place with so-and-so, things that could be clearly affirmed and denied. when the charges come, and they are about our harshness, our coldness, our selfishness or other sinful behaviors, let us not be quick to deny, for we don’t know if we are considered by others to be harsh, cold, or selfish–let us begin by agreeing to examine ourselves in prayer and the word whether we have been harsh, cold or selfish (among other things), praying: 


search me, o God, and know my heart!

     try me and know my thoughts! [psalm 139:23]


for our Father knows us better than we know ourselves!


  • confess what is true: paul did not deny preaching the gospel and he continued to preach in prison, believing it to be lawful, he knew the law well enough to know that what he was being accused of was not worthy of death by the civil magistrate, and what he was guilty of was punishable by death by God, except for the atoning work of Christ, and he admits as such.  when i am quick to defend myself, i would do well to remember and confess the sin has taken residence in my heart, and patiently bear with my accuser, showing them where their may be error in discerning my behavior or motivation, without passing judgment on them–if they are seeking the Lord, we know that he will show them their sin in time too!

  • appeal to a third party: we see most of our relationships as a competition rather than an opportunity for confession, repentance and reconciliation, sanctification and growth! in the context of marriage, even if i feel like i have ‘won’ an argument, many times, i have lost, because i have pushed away my wife in a way that isn’t gentle or is unloving, having the last word or successfully convincing her that i had zero sinful motive in a behavior. paul provides a help here, and matthew 18 provides us additional context: many times, we are so blind that we cannot hear the words of our accuser, who is pleading for us to turn to Christ–we can be humble and ask for another to speak into our lives, asking the difficult question–’am i a harsh man?’, ‘do you see me as selfish’? that third party mediating the confronted sin can often provide insight into places where we are blind. 


ultimately, all reconciliation should point to the ultimate reconciliation that is found in the work of Jesus, who reconciles us to God by his perfect atoning death: let us stand in his presence today, boldly approaching the eternal throne, knowing that it is Jesus who has given us his righteous standing against any accusation before the holy Judge!