On occasion, my heart has been greatly troubled in the past year as I observed the harsh and hateful words and ways Christians have blasted over the internet in judgment of people, groups, politicians, leaders, broken people, immigrants, women in distress, non-believers and those of different belief systems. Often, they treat those they are criticizing as though perhaps these are not real people with real lives and real feelings.
Christians should not be surprised at the ways non-believers live their lives with different standards, since they do not know our God or His ways. We should not be surprised at non-believers having differing opinions than our own. But it is easy to throw out hostility to those distant from ourselves, those who cannot answer us or whom we do not have to look at "eye to eye."
Perhaps in this day of internet and media, it is too easy to type words of opinions and criticism of others without having to bear any responsibility, consequences or accountability for this sort of behavior. And I understand that many believe it is their "Christian duty" to espouse, with confidence, objections to those who do not share in their life-style of values or belief system.
I understand that some of you will be put off by this article, and I do not invite conflict and do not want to offend anyone. But, in teaching my children manners, how to minister to people, and seeking to understand that it is the kindness and mercy of God that leads to repentance, I felt an accountability to write about these standards in regards to social media. I felt compelled to write this post in hopes that it might be of help or encouragement to others who are pondering the same issues and wanting to pass on to their children a heritage of life-giving words and behavior. Shouldn't Christians have the most gracious deportment and manners because we have known Him?
I have very strong convictions and traditional Biblical beliefs, and yet, my question is not of the beliefs of believers, but of the ways their behavior and ways of communication are poorly reflecting on Christ. It seems to me, many contradict what I believe are essential basics of decorum and honor for relating truth to a culture who holds differing opinions and world views.
The only people I see Jesus being forceful with were the Pharisees, who pretended to be pious but in fact were called by Jesus, "a brood of vipers," because of leading the Jewish people to religious legalism, but not to God.
I believe we must strongly consider how to best offer our messages and convictions to the world in the same manner as Jesus offered himself and His teaching to the world.
Often I have observed fellow believers throwing out accusations and abhorrent and angry pronouncements bordering on hate, even toward fellow Christians. At times, honestly, I have felt sad and embarrassed to be connected to such conduct and even feel like distancing myself from those who expose themselves in such a way. Such behavior shows irreverence for the humility and example of our own Savior.
When I ponder Christ, His heart, His ways, I see a different standard of relating to others different than me.
He who bows his knee to serve, accepts the tears of a broken, adulterous woman washing his feet. He overlooks and does not bring to the fore the many weaknesses, or sin of all those who surrounded Him, including His disciples. His modeling of love warms my heart's cry for a display of holy honor and propriety and self-control --statesmanship.
Christ speaks of love. He models love; He sacrifices for the sake of loving redemption for the many who are lost in brokenness.
Jesus, seeing the adulteress being accused by the Pharisees, looked upon the broken woman with compassion. He looked her accusers in the eye and said, "He who is without sin cast the first stone."
When no one remained, because obviously all of her accusers had sinned, Jesus proclaimed, "I do not accuse you either."
Pretty astounding words from the one who embodied perfect holiness.
Jesus told his disciples, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned." Luke 6: 37
Jesus, the One who told the story of the good Samaritan being the righteous one--he who was neither theologically or politically correct to the Jews, nor a leader of the Jewish temple--but he was the one that Jesus proclaimed truly cared for his neighbor, because of his love and service to someone of differing race and beliefs.
"They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another."
"Treat others in the way you would want to be treated."
And the following passage which has captured the imagination of my heart this week:
Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?”
But when Jesus heard this, He said,“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus, the holy Lamb of God, who was pure and spotless, who had the right to condemn sinners, chose not to humiliate them publicly. So why would I think that I, one of the very sinners He saved, have the right to publicly condemn others?
And so I ask Him, "What does this compassion, "eating with sinners" and gently bringing them the great physician, "treating others as I wish they would treat me" look like for me during this season of history, this time of cultural conflicts?"
When defending our precious beliefs on the internet or in public, or in the news, are we to forget these passages--these words of Christ that call us to humility, gentleness and compassion and mercy?
There is a way to verbalize convictions without bearing emotional hostility and blatant animosity.
As I age, I am so much more aware of my own sin and tendency towards selfishness, immaturity, at times, total abandonment of His will, and I feel so very sorry that I am often so weak and petty. And so, I find, I am not as ready to point fingers at others when I have become so much more aware of my own fallibility as I become more aware of His holiness.
The same sins we rant about on Facebook, are numbered with my sins which are nailed upon the same cross. And so my gratefulness for the improbable reality that he would choose me, a very limited sinner, to become his child transforms my heart to one of sympathy for others who are now broken, as I was broken.
Perhaps "he who is forgiven much, loves much" is becoming more real to me at this stage in life.
Why do we pretend to think that those who show love to those differing in convictions, are liberal and somehow wrong, when love was commanded by Christ?
In light of these verses, I feel I would rather err on the side of love than criticism, compassion than harsh judgment.
Make no mistake, I am not speaking of compromising my beliefs or ideals, but only the way I see the hearts and lives and minds and motives of those who differ from me in their beliefs and ideals--and then treating them in a way my love of Jesus directs me to behave.
Even as I observe my own state before he adopted me as His child, I bow my head in humble gratefulness. I do not deserve His graciousness to me.
And as I look to Jesus, He made no demands for Himself, He did not lash out in anger at those who were so very lost, but instead, "He looked out on the multitudes, and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd."
"Jesus, while being reviled, did not revile in return, but kept trusting himself to God, who judges righteously." Philippians 2
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