The first two months of this year have been exciting to say the least. From the drone strike that killed Soleimani, to the exit of Harry and Meghan from the Royal Family, to the impeachment proceedings of President Trump, to the crash that killed Kobe Bryant and the 8 other passengers in the helicopter, to the Superbowl Half-Time show with Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, to the spread of the Coronavirus and alleged Chinese scandals surrounding the outbreak.
In each situation listed above people have been quick to take sides, make judgments, and assume personal expertise at knowing the right way to handle things. People supported trump for the strike and people did not support him calling it an assassination. Some supported Meghan and Harry for stepping out of their royal positions, others pronounced quick judgment. Many mourned the death of Kobe Bryant, many quickly forgot about the other victims of the crash. People quickly pointed out how raunchy the half-time show was at the Super Bowl, others pointed to Latin pride. People have judged the Chinese culture for eating exotic meats, they have stated that the government is lying about the number of cases, etc., but we still do not know exactly where things started or have much proof of any cover-up.
In all these situations it would be easy to take sides. It would be easy to think about how things would be different if we were in charge – in charge of the government, in charge of the news, in charge of family entertainment, in charge of healthcare, etc. But more than that, each of these situations should remind us that humanity is flawed and finite.
Romans 3:23 reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This statement comes after a section of text where Paul reminds his readers that no one is righteous on account of his or her own merits. In other words, we are all sinners who cannot save ourselves.
The events of this year should not cause us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, instead the events that have happened should serve as a reminder that we are all in need of grace and redemption.
While we are busy pointing our fingers at others and condemning their actions, we often forget about our own struggles, sins, and addictions. We forget that the things we say and the things we do are often out of alignment.
We condemn the way political dirt is flung between politicians but fail to see our own struggles with gossip, brazen posts on social media where we write things we would never say to someone’s face, and the way we manipulate situations in our lives to make ourselves look better than those around us.
We condemn the way the news drudges up past allegations of a person recently deceased but forget that we bring up skeletons in the closet when we argue with those we love.
We condemn the way someone performs on television but forget that we have made small performances at home, work, and/or in public that do not bring honor to Christ.
Thinking about how people quickly judge without thinking through the ramifications of those judgments reminds me of a passage in Scripture – John 8:
3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 …Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Here people condemned a woman who was clearly in the wrong without thinking about all of their own personal sins and short-comings.
To put it bluntly, we are all hypocrites. At least we are all hypocritical sometimes. We tend to see the sins of others without recognizing our own sins. We want to condemn others for their poor choices, bad behaviors, and sinful actions, but we do not want to stand in judgment ourselves.
The great thing about the story in John 8 is not that Jesus does not condemn the woman, it is that he comes alongside her and encourages her. He is her advocate, but he also calls her to a new standard. He tells her to stop sinning. He loves the person, but he does not justify the sinful behavior.
As Christians we should look to Christ as our model. He knew the woman was a sinner, but his desire was to guide her to a better life. We too should come along-side others and help them overcome their sins. Likewise, we must be willing to accept the help of others when they see our sins and try to help us improve.
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus addresses the concept of being judgmental. In Matthew 7 he says:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Jesus is not saying that it is wrong to make judgments. What he is saying is that it is wrong to judge others without self-reflection. When the half-time show aired it was “all the rage” on social media. But while some Christians were condemning the show, others were condemning Christians for their hypocritical self-righteousness when it comes to other aspects of culture. It was pointed out that the same amount of uproar was absent last year when Adam Levine performed shirtless. It was also pointed out that Christians seemed to have no problem with cheerleaders at all the other games.
We are all hypocritical. We all do things that go against what we believe. We all recognize faults in others that parallel faults in ourselves – we just don’t always see it.
I am not suggesting that we refrain from letting our voices be heard, I am not suggesting that we stay out of politics. I am, however, suggesting that we be mindful of grace and mercy, that we seek wisdom in the ways we approach our culture, and that we offer solutions not just condemnation.
As Christians we must evaluate our own hearts. We must look for our planks and before we cast any stones, we must discern our intentions and agendas. We must call the culture to a higher standard, but we must also lead by example, come along and lift others up as we are being lifted up too.
As we move further into the election year, this is especially important for making statements about policies, candidates, and voters. As Christians, we must remain seek to remain faithful to God’s calling on the Christian life, but we must also be willing to engage culture.
This year, I implore you to commit to being an informed respondent, to act with grace, to encourage others to be the best they can be, to show mercy, and to evaluate your own heart every step of the way.