Monday, April 26, 2010

Rush to Judgment

Several years ago singer/songwriter, Jennifer Knapp walked away from a career in the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) arena. She stopped recording and touring all together. At the time she left the CCM industry, there were rumors that she was gay. Recently, Knapp resurfaced and has admitted to the world that she is, indeed, a lesbian. As can well be expected, this has caused a rumble across the Christian community nationwide, sparking debate and controversy. It is no wonder that Knapp was apprehensive about making this announcement and took some time off before coming out, the firestorm that her announcement created was something I am sure she was hoping to avoid. This piece, however, is not really about Jennifer, or her struggles, her heart or her faith. I don't know her, nor do I want to speculate on any of the aforementioned things going on in her life. It is her life and it really is none of my business - and that is the point I hope to make.

Unfortunately, among Christians there is a rush to judge others and find them lacking in faith, sinful and sick. We seek to level the playing field, so we nervously look around in an effort to find the chink in the armor of the person sitting next to us in the pew on Sunday morning. Aha! We announce with glee when we find out a juicy tidbit about our pew neighbor, I always knew there was something about him. Then we can breathe a sigh of relief as it is confirmed that the person next to us is not only a sinner, just like us, but he is perhaps even a worse sinner, because he is living a life of sin. It makes us feel oh, so much better, to believe that we are somehow more holy because our neighbor is more sinful. Not only that, we have a fabulous time talking amongst ourselves about how we should probably confront this random person sitting next to us on the pew. Even though we have not exchanged more than two words with the man in our lives, we feel it is our Christian duty to warn him that the wages of sin is death. It's only fitting, right? Wrong.

I can hear the rush to defend even as I write: I am only speaking the truth; Those are God's words, not mine; We can't sugarcoat the truth; Christianity is becoming too soft; We are called to point out the sin of our fellow Christians; I can't sit idly by while someone goes to hell for his life of sin. Those are among just a few of the justifications I have heard over the years from Christians who feel qualified to assess others, having appointed themselves messengers of God. I call bologna on that. It is little more than a guise by which we deflect attention off of ourselves and on to others whom we feel have committed worse sins than we, or those who seem, by our standards, to be unrepentant. It's not at all what we are called to do as brothers and sisters in Christ.

There are scriptures that are trotted out as justification for pointing out the sin of another, 2 Timothy 2:25-26, comes to mind at the moment, but there are others. This passage does call for instructing each other in truth in order that we might escape Satan's traps and find repentance. Scriptures such as these, do not, however, mean that we should attempt to shame others into repentance. Nor does it mean that we should speculate the hearts of random people about whom we know nothing, except a few tidbits of news or gossip. This sort of instruction should be prayerfully entered into, with a lot of love and only with people we are close to. We have to be so careful that our motives are pure and that we are full of love and mercy for our brother or sister in Christ, because the mercy that we show to others is same mercy that will be shown to us, by God himself, later on.

Besides the delicacy with which this instruction is administered, it is also best that we see this type of instruction as a minute part of our Christianity. We should be spending so much time reflecting on how to repent and turn away from our own sin, that it is difficult to even have time to look around and see what everyone else is doing, much less find the time to assess their salvation based on how sinful we believe they are. Each one of us leads a life filled with sin, mistakes and bad choices. Not one of us is worthy of salvation. That is where Christ comes in. He made us worthy. It is our job to daily obey the two commands that He said all the laws and the prophets hang on: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (Matthew 22:37-40)

When we fervently dedicate ourselves to these two things, it starts to change our perspective. We start to feel less like looking outward in order to find something wrong with someone else in order to make ourselves feel superior and more eager to look inward, fix our own broken parts, and begin to see others through God's eyes more easily. Because, the more we allow God to sink into our heats, souls and minds the more clearly we see through God's point of view. We understand that others are God's children, who are sinful, yet dearly loved, just like we ourselves are. If we all just do this, there will be no need for all of the other bologna -- grace will flow in such a circular fashion that we will all feel loved and secure, not only by God, but also by our fellow Christians. We then have no need to speculate and judge.

Jennifer Knapp - A Little More