Defending the Guilty
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
by Dr. Paul Chappell

“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”

Colossians 3:8–10

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.—Winston Churchill

One of the most famous trials in history was that of Benjamin Francois Courvoisier in London in 1840, who is now immortalized in Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. Courvoisier was a Swiss valet accused of murdering his elderly employer, Lord William Russell. What made this trial notorious was the argument for the defense. The police had bungled the investigation. The evidence against Courvoisier was entirely circumstantial or had been planted. One of the officers had perjured himself, and the maid's testimony brought suspicion on herself. The defense attorney, Charles Phillips, was convinced of the innocence of Courvoisier and cross-examined witnesses aggressively.

At the beginning of the second day of the trial, however, Courvoisier confessed privately to his lawyer that he had committed the murder. When asked if he were going to plead guilty, he replied to Charles Phillips, “No, sir, I expect you to defend me to the utmost.” Phillips was faced with a dilemma. Should he declare to the court that the man was guilty, or should he defend Courvoisier as best he could? Should he break the confidentiality of the client-lawyer relationship, or should he help a guilty man to possibly go free? Which is more important—truth or professional duty?

Phillips decided to defend the guilty man. But despite Phillips's efforts, Courvoisier was convicted. When the dilemma was later made public, Phillips's decision to defend a murderer horrified British society and brought him a great deal of criticism.

Charles Phillips was faced with a difficult decision and under extreme pressure, he chose to defend a guilty man rather than reveal the truth. We all face difficult situations in life, situations that may call for us to choose between telling the truth or not.

Think of the martyrs of earlier centuries. They faced the toughest decision of choosing life or death, claiming the truth of God’s Word or recanting their faith. They could have recanted and lived a long life, or they could hold on to the truth and be killed. Even in the face of grave consequences, many of them chose God’s truth over long life.

While most of us will never have to choose between life and death, we still face choices of truth each day. Will we be obedient to claim the truth, or will we cave under pressure and sacrifice truth?

Whether in your workplace, on your taxes, or in any situation, remember that God blesses honesty and truth. While others may be encouraging you to sacrifice truth, choose to honor God and hold fast to His truth no matter what others may say.

To find out more about Pastor Paul Chappell visit his blog or follow him on twitter.

Daily Bible Reading
Numbers 7-8 • Mark 4:21-41

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