Guilty until proven innocent. No, that’s not a typo. I’d like to say the rush to judgment on people simply accused of wrongdoing is a sign of the times, but viewing others through the prism of “circumstantial evidence” has been in play for centuries.
Circumstantial evidence draws conclusions based not on direct verification, but on information that infers guilt. Take Job. Job’s friends condemned him based solely on what they observed. They figured the tragic turn of events in his life must be the result of some great hidden sin. They had no direct evidence to prove this, but they believed all hardship in life was a form of punishment from God. Since Job was suffering, he must be guilty…of something.
The more Job maintained his innocence throughout his ordeal, the more his friends heaped on the accusations. At one point, his friend Elihu, cries, “Oh that Job might be tested to the utmost!” Uh…..No one in all of history had ever endured the kind of test Job was facing.
But Job’s friends weren’t the only ones operating on circumstantial evidence. Satan boasted to God that he could make Job fall if he took everything away from him; he could destroy Job’s integrity if he afflicted him with enough suffering. God, however, said not a chance. He knew Job. He knew Job from the inside out. All Satan knew was Job’s external cushy lifestyle. His judgment of Job was based totally on circumstantial evidence. Just like Job’s friends.
They were all wrong.
Thankfully, God never relies on circumstantial evidence to judge us. He doesn’t let circumstances define the truth. He lets truth define the circumstances. He sees us as we are. He knows our motives. And although he doesn’t expect us to see other people (or even ourselves) to the same depth he does, he wants us to be charitable in our judgments—innocent until proven guilty at the very least. We don’t know how many demons someone may be wrestling with at any given moment.
There are few things in life more painful than being falsely accused. Let’s not add to others’ pain by jumping on the bandwagon of circumstantial evidence. We only see through a glass darkly in this life, no matter how clear the clamor in society claims the picture to be.