On Jussie Smollett, and the just punishment for false accusations

Jussie Smollett stands accused of falsely claiming to be the victim of a racially and politically motivated hate crime. What does the bible have to say about such things?

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/20/arts/television/jussie-smollett-attack-suspect.html

If the charge against Smollett is accurate, meaning that he falsely claimed to have been attacked, then he is guilty of offering false testimony. The bible says that those who give false testimony should receive the punishment they sought to inflict on others.

If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Deuteronomy 19:16-21

This is perfect justice.

Suppose one man, John, accuses another man, let’s call him George, of murder, and he brings a false charge against him. What is the proper punishment? Biblically, the punishment for murder is execution, so, George’s life is on the line. The lie is an attempted murder. John has attempted to take the life of an innocent man.

The only thing that could be a just response to such a plot is to execute the liar. He must be punished with the same punishment he sought to inflict. If the government does any less than to execute the false witness, it has judged that the lives of the two men are not equal.

In the case of Smollett, the apparent target of his claim is not an individual. It wasn’t motivated by hatred of an individual, but rather hatred of a group of people. Smollett, (again, assuming he lied,) hated Trump supporters and wanted them to be shamed and shunned. It was a politically motivated, hate crime.

Assuming that Smollett is guilty, what should happen? The bible teaches that justice would be served by the trouble he sought to bring to someone else falling on him. By rights, he ought the shamed and shunned. He ought to be a pariah, an outcast. His political opinion and voice should count for nothing.

The evil Smollett sought to inflict was not primarily a legal one, it was a social one. This means that the primary punishment for his false accusation can not be enforced by the government, it must be carried out by society. His family and friends, his employer and coworkers, his landlord and his barber must count him a disgrace. This is how justice is served in such an incident. This is a tough “sentence,” no doubt, but those around him should not show him pity, they should do justice, as Deuteronomy 19:21 compels. If they fail to do justice, they are effectively joining with him in despising the people he sought to harm by false accusation.

When justice has been done, others will be afraid to make similar false accusations. This will allow the society to be at peace. In contrast, if there is no social punishment inflicted on Smollett, we can expect others to try the same thing. That would have serious consequences for American society.

What we cannot say is that his guilt is shared by all those who share his political opinions. Although there is no doubt that others are prone to similar temptations, he acted on them alone. Justice demands that he bear the guilt and the punishment alone. The bible tells us this, as well.

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

Ezekiel 18:20

If Smollett receives the punishment he deserves, and becomes a disgraced person, we should all recognize that justice has been done and go back to our business. We should not allow his evil action to produce anger and resentment towards anyone other than Smollett. Trump supporters (among which, I am numbered) must not wish for punishment to be inflicted on “people like him,” regardless of whether that means those who share his political opinions, or his ethnicity, or his sexual perversion, or even his family name. No matter how close someone is to Smollett, he must bare his guilt alone.

When judgment day arrives, each of us must bear our guilt alone before the throne of God. Family connections can not save us from his wrath. Having approved political opinions or being part of an oppressed minority will count for nothing. That others have sinned against you will not absolve you of your own guilt. If the hammer of God’s judgment falls on any of us it will utterly crush us. If you have ever wronged another human being, you will be cast away from the throne of God and removed from all his grace.

There is only one chance for any of us on the day of wrath, and that is to trust in Jesus to save. He alone is able to help us in that hour. Only the perfect righteousness of Christ can withstand the terrible justice of God. Take shelter in that Rock, because the soul that sins shall die, but all those that call upon the name of the lord shall be saved.

 

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