In the early 1960s my dad was pastoring a church in California.  It was, and is, a great church.  When dad went there in 1959, the previous pastor had been there for 38 years.  He was a godly man.  But the transition became difficult about two years in.  A small group of members got it into their heads that dad was a communist sympathizer.  Yes, you read that right.  My dad, a conservative Republican, was a communist sympathizer who, in ten years, would have that church liberal and apostate.  Truly, “madness is in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

Where did dad’s accusers come up with that?  As I understand it, the logic was, “He went to Princeton Seminary.  Princeton Seminary is liberal.  So he must be a liberal, and every other horrible thing that flows therefrom.”

This small group broadcast their alarm in a letter to the whole church.  For some months, the leaders of the church did not confront it decisively.  But eventually, they did put a stop to it.  And the church began to take off in wonderful divine blessing.

After this season of anguish for my dad and mom, Dr. Edward John Carnell, a Fuller Seminary prof who attended the church, gave my dad a copy of a book he had recently contributed to.  In the front, as you can see, Dr. Carnell graciously wrote the following:

“February 4, 1962

To my present pastor and beloved friend, Raymond C. Ortlund, in grateful appreciation for the Christ-like manner in which he stood before his accusers.  I wish I had a tithe of his charity.

Edward John Carnell

Isaiah 53:7  He was oppressed, and was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.”

Coming up with accusations against a pastor, even absurd accusations, is easy.  And its dark purpose might succeed.  But it is better to be the accused than the accuser.  So much better!  Christ himself took the place of the accused, that hellish place where fingers are pointed, that heartbreaking place of rejection and exclusion.  He went there, and he saved us from there.  And now, if he leads us to that same place, we are not alone.  He comes to us there, with a deeper purpose of redemption which will, sooner or later, win the day.