Events of the past week were disheartening. Many in our society watched in dismay as the unthinkable became a reality and a new law of the land. Many thought it would never come to this. Some thought the battle was lost long ago and this day was inevitable. Personally I watched in shock and amazement as the battle shifted to social media. Dividing lines were drawn, statements proclaimed. Each claiming their “moral high ground” as masses watched and condemned or applauded the proclamation. Many pronounced the “who am I to judge position” or the “#LoveWins in the end” position. As this unfolded, I question where we are as church, universally speaking. Are we really fulfilling the great commission? Is this what the prescriptive commands in the Bible are to have us do?
As a universal Christian church we have lost our ability to provide a witness for the gospel of Jesus Christ by relinquishing the ability to properly evaluate society and/or a person’s actions or beliefs.
• You shouldn’t judge!
Many take the Bible passage in Matthew 7:1 of “Judge not, that you will be judged” and stop there. The prohibition is not to judge others in the same way as the, “Pharisees, who were very rigid and severe, very magisterial and supercilious, in condemning all about them, as those commonly are, that are proud and conceited in justifying themselves.” (Henry, M. 1994) Unfortunately, this first century exegesis of the Biblical text fails to carry over to a modern context very well. We are considering this passage in the 21st century context. There are no Pharisees currently around, but many still attempt to act as they did 2000 years ago. This line of thought from Jesus is cautioning us against judging hypocritically, uncharitably, unmercifully, with a spirit of revenge, and a desire to do damage. We should however, “Counsel him, and help him, but do not judge him.” (Henry, M. 1994)
Nonetheless, the statement of “You shouldn’t judge!” needs to be addressed. Do people judge other actions, items or people? Yes, and it is absurd to think that we do not do this waking moment of every day! A “You shouldn’t judge!” assertion is a self-refuting statement. A self-refuting statement is defined; “a statement is one that fails to meet its own standard, as another example, “I cannot speak a word in English.” We have to judge in order to function. We judge our behavior, others behavior, thoughts, what they value, and what they believe as determination of what coincides with reality. The “You shouldn’t judge!” statement is a judgment! It makes a claim to know truth. A value proposition of what is right and what is wrong.
For the sake of argument, let’s investigate what the Bible provides as a prescriptive command not to judge. John the Baptist in Matthew 3:7 told the Pharisees and Sadducees, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” I ask you this, how did John know the Pharisees and Sadducees were a “brood of vipers”? John formulated a judgment of their actions and behaviors and called them into repentance! Other example is Paul speaking in Athens in Acts 17. Paul is rendering a judgment against their culture of idols that they worship.
22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:22-25)
The Apostle Paul and John the Baptizer, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, made a judgment claims against a society, a culture, and groups. They attempted to show them the inaccuracies of their worldviews that would not lead them to repentance and righteousness before the one true God. As people of the 21st century, and as Christians, we are called to do the same. By pointing to the one true God, the one God who sent his Son so we may have redemption when placing our trust in him.
• Can we fulfill the mission?
The recent political decisions are not the end of the world. We should remind each other that the Christian faith has rarely been in the advantageous position in either culture or the political realms in the past 2000 years. This is but another small step to removing the coherent truth claims of the gospel message from the public square of ideas. What are we to do?
While many stimulating sermon messages this past weekend were crafted and conveyed, many used the “love wins in the end” perspective. Twitter hashtags created the #LoveWins message further creating a buzz of anticipation in the social media realm. Both sides of the argument claimed “love” and rainbows with an exciting splash of colors permeated all corners of the internet. While this made everyone feel really good. Happy colors have a way of uplifting a person’s philological state. (Basic commercial marketing 101) It accomplished nothing in the way of constructive dialog about the issues our culture faces.
#LoveWins alienates both sides from the issue at hand. Both are claiming to be “loving” faction. From the Christian perspective, love does NOT win, love HAS ALREADY won. Love won at the cross of Calvary when Jesus was crucified for us. All of us, nasty, gross, deplorable, self-serving sinners benefited from God’s redemptive action in his creation. Jesus was sent as a sign of God’s claim on his creation providing pathway to him as a substitutionary atonement that diverts God’s wrath. Yes, wrath! You cannot have love without hate. An example is; if you love children, you hate child abuse. You cannot have one without the other. It follows then, if God loves his people, created in the likeness of himself, there will be a natural hate of sin because of his love for us. In some aspects, the universal church has minimized this attribute of God. God will not be mocked and there is a wrath of God coming for those who make the willing choice not to follow him. Additionally, a #Lovewins mantra fails to address the full totality of the problem. A biblical love is “sacrificial, efficacious, and seeks what is right (1 Corinthians 13) and it cannot intersect with sin.” Yes, love your neighbor, but no, I do not have to affirm or condone sinful behavior. It would be the same if; I in my sinful nature was having an inappropriate relationship with my neighbor’s wife. You, as my other neighbor knew this was taking place. At this point you’re forced to make a judgment. Is this right or is it wrong? Remember, for those who may wish to walk the fence on this, you receive no free pass. No judgment of right or wrong is really a judgment. A non-decision is really a decision stated in the words you do not speak. Sexual sin is sin and it is wrong.
Speaking to my own community of faith, our leadership provided a message that was thoughtful and timely regarding our current cultural state. Outlined in the message were points to consider about Satan’s actions in God’s creation. To follow along with those points made, I wish to go one step further. How do we look to ourselves and make our lives a consistent Christian witness?
1. Stop the defeatist Christian naval gazing!
Collectively more time is spent watching television, posting pictures of stupidity on social media (guilty!) and faking a coherent Christian worldview then actually engaging in a discussion about problems of the heart (read, sinful nature) we all have. Your children, your car, your job, even you spouse are not god, but in some cases, we have made them one. The one true God should be your God, and if you really proclaim him as Christ and Lord of all, then do the difficult work and open your Bible and learn something about him!
2. Engage in learning!
Learn about the issues and how to develop a Christian worldview. Read a book. Not just any book, but a book that discusses the historical positons of the Christian church. Something written by a pillar of the Christian faith (Wesley, Calvin, or Luther) or by a highly educated scholar and the book was critically reviewed by their peers. Any new-age semi-Christian spiritual garbage written by a “popular” pastor, who ignores the basic tenets of the Christian faith, is rubbish.
3. Connect with a Growth Group and get in the game!
The modern church so adores the doctrines of Justification and Adoption, but barely utters anything about the doctrines of Sanctification and Perseverance. (If you don’t know what those words mean, you just proved my point.) Learn the doctrines of the Christian faith and learn how to teach them to your family and defend them in the public square of ideas.
• In conclusion…
Stop looking at the left or right political party to save you. Learn everything you can about the one true Savior of the world. He alone is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Rev 19:16) God is sovereign over all, but we have a role to play in his Kingdom.
I end this post with an open invitation to the members of my community of faith. If you disagree with me, then engage me. You can go sulk in the corner and talk about how the “guy who writes about God” spoke harshly or you can connect with me on the City and we will open the scriptures, examine what the word says, figure how to apply it and defend it.
If we can’t even create disciples among ourselves, then how can we expect to be salt and light to a broken world that desperately needs to hear the message…
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matthew 5:13)
Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1643). Peabody: Hendrickson.