A House Divided
Like partisanship divides a nation, judgment causes disunity in the body of Christ. I believe firmly in the ability to live out our faith amongst those who best represent our styles of worship and fellowship. There is, however, a clear disconnect in the unity factor of the Body as a whole. The central purposes Christ called us to have been lost among a sea of non-essentials. Our misappropriated focus has launched us into a mire of self-seeking righteousness. Ultimately this clouds our witness to a lost world and negates Christ last plea in the garden –that we would be one like He and the Father are one. The redemptive power of grace is overshadowed in its deliverance when the message is one of guilt and fear or anger and punishment.
It’s not about being right
It is very easy to get stoked and passionate about grievous sins but when we analyze the root cause of that anger what does it really represent? I remember when my church did a study a few years back about grace. Coming off the spiritual high of a really exciting study about our “purpose” I was a little let down –well, all right –miffed. “Grace” I whined to my husband “I don’t need to learn anything more about grace—I am about as graceful as you could get” (Can you just anticipate the painful lesson I was about to learn). Well, in the few months that ensued I went on a journey of discovering just how “un-grace-filled” I really was.
God slowly revealed to me the root causes of my “self defined” righteous anger towards the grievous sins of society. First, I discovered that I was threatened by other people’s sin and secondly; I humbly admit, I had an incessant desire to be right. Being wrong somehow shook the bedrock of my faith. These lessons coincided with a presidential election; I was almost obsessed with the rhetoric being spewed by the opposing parties. In my mind, I was convinced that the “other” party was wrong and I was right and that they were the enemy. One day in my quiet time God whispered in my heart. “You know Ami, it’s not about being right. The Pharisees were right, look where that got them—It is, however, about loving people into my Kingdom.”
Big silent pause—“Lord, am I being Pharisaical?”
I wasn’t feeling very loving, in fact love hadn’t even crossed my mind; but I was feeling very “right”. I had to surrender the notion of being right and replace it with the humility of love. It is not my place to judge or convict.
Missing the Point
However we, as The Body, have a job to do and that is to show people the essence of Christ. We do this by confessing our own flaws and ruthlessly seeking to eliminate those elements in our characters by allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us. We are to be vessels of God’s Glory and let the Spirit’s power do the work. Vessels work most efficiently when they are clean and empty. When we are living examples of Christ in Spirit and Truth people take note. Christ within us, draws others to us: they perceive something in us that is not like anything the world has ever given them and they want what we have. The world today doesn’t have a lot of respect for the truth of Christ, not because it is not true, but because they are intimately aware of the flawed messengers who sit in judgment of a fallen world. We have the right message, but sometimes the wrong delivery system. If we continue to focus on the “sins of others” we miss out on the purpose of the gospel: to share the Good News of freedom that is found in Christ.
Who are we fighting anyway?
We not only alienate others by judgment, but we stymie our own growth while enhancing the territory of the true enemy. My friend shared with me a powerful image of this very idea. She said it’s like we are at war and there are two soldiers in two different foxholes but they are on the same side of the war. They mercilessly shoot at each other because they do not recognize they are comrades, consequently the enemy is free to roam around and cause havoc among others in the division because of the ceaseless friendly fire going on. We do not battle against the powers of this world but of the spiritual powers of darkness. Why do we insist on shooting at each other while the enemy gains ground?
So what do we do with the sin that abounds? Do we feel that if we cannot judge sin we somehow lessen the holiness of God? Or is it that we fear if we do not judge sin, we risk infection? Or worse yet, do we surrender our ability to claim we are “right” if we defer judgment. I cannot pretend to know the answers to the world’s motivations but I do know that God will not be mocked and that he will deal with sin in the most effective way. I do not need to defend the creator of the universe. My response to other’s sin has to be the same as to my own sin—getting on my knees. There is a powerful transformation that occurs when you replace judgment with a prayer. And I don’t mean the prayer like the Pharisee gave in Luke– “Thank God I am not a sinner like him”. The prayer must be a humble pivotal prayer, one where an attitude that began as judgment was surrendered to an earnest heartfelt desire for blessing and not cursing. “There but for the grace of God go I.”