On Facebook, recently, I read a post that disturbed me. Someone had posted an opinion piece about a particular prominent pastor who was supposedly trying to blend Islam and Christianity. I clicked on the article to discover that the author didn't cite any sources or link to any articles but proclaimed this pastor the Spawn of Satan for mixing up his theology so badly. The comments on the article were even worse, decrying how this pastor was a false-prophet and the anti-Christ for pushing such an evil idea. The problem was, none of it was true. So I linked to an article which contained an actual interview with the pastor in question, an article in which he not only denied the accusations in the first article but gave compelling reasons why he would never hold those views. Once I linked to the article, suddenly the hateful comments stopped and no one had anything else to say. The experience reinforced a proverb I have read for years: The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross- examines him (Proverbs 18:17, HCSB).
We quite easily fall into the trap of believing the first thing anyone tells us, especially if we are told something that reinforces a negative feeling we already have about someone. Because we already have negative feelings we are much more likely to simply say, "Well, that wouldn't surprise me," and then quickly accept the claim as fact. Sometimes, we are shocked that such an accusation could be true but swallow it anyway. At other times, we hear something from a source we trust and, even though the accusation doesn't make sense, we believe it because we trust that person. The problem is that nasty accusations always have some kind of emotional baggage attached to them and every single one of us has blind spots when it comes to certain groups or people. There is always another side to the story.
If someone were to make a nasty accusation against me, I would want them to investigate the claim before accepting it. I would want them to verify the truth before passing it on to other people. So the least we can do is verify such claims when we hear them. If we can't verify nasty accusations or we don't have the time to check it out ourselves, we ought to let the accusations drop. Most of the time, the first person we hear is going to sound right until we hear the other side of the story.
Don't just believe nasty accusations or pass them on without verifying them first. You would be pretty upset if you were the one being accused.