Doing the “right thing” is something most of us are striving for. It’s only human nature to want to fit in and to do the right thing because from the time we’re born, that’s the cultural norm. But what standard do we live by? The word of God should be the yardstick to which we Christians measure our lives by and yet, our subjective view of God and how we see him, whether angry or loving, will influence our response to others. Adding to that, our interpretations of the word of God will often differ from one another and then our mindsets tend to skew towards judgment for those who differ with us.
Holding our mindsets up for examination to God’s heart is one of the most crucial things we can learn to do because the slope leaning toward judgment is so perilously slippery. Take Fred Phelps and his ilk at Westboro Baptist Church and their hate of gays. They see God as angry and seem to demonstrate no love at all. Wrapped up in all their judgment is biblical truth about sin, and they will be the first to turn to the word of God and point it out for you that they are in fact right about the sin itself. So why do we think we’re above that or that we are so different when we do the same thing, in perhaps, a more subtle way?
Everyone debates old covenant law vs. new covenant grace. Most Christians privately cringe when they hear the name Westboro. Westboro is the scourge of the church for their legalistic ways and yet, many other churches do not think twice of being fairly legalistic themselves – especially when it comes to a 10% tithe. Beyond the obvious personal attacks invoked by Westboro, why is one legalist kind of thinking considered acceptable and the other not?
Let’s begin with truth. I think it’s fair to say that there are truths and there are higher truths. Recognizing what is more important to God can help us avoid judgment. For instance, loving your neighbor as yourself is a higher truth than pointing out sin in another. How do we know? Well, Jesus said, “There is no greater commandment,” when talking about loving your neighbor, Mark 12:31. Then we have 1 Cor. 13:1, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. In other words, I can be right as far as the day is long, but if the truth I bring is not wrapped in love, it’s worthless. Actually, it’s filthy rags! Love is the higher truth and always takes precedence over being right.
The term bible thumping is synonymous with judgment and conjures up images of people pointing fingers in anger toward another’s behavior, thinking nothing of their own.
We recently went through a nasty experience where this happened to me with new tenants of our rental house. Three days into our rental relationship and after we allowed them to move into our house in good faith, they bounced the first check they wrote to us. I was incredulous after that and the tenant was seeking my compassion for some reason. One week later, he immediately moved his family out and was trying to claim the moral high ground making my response to his moral failure the focus of the issue. There were no extenuating circumstances, as far I know, he simply wrote me a bad check and then became furious that I was not more lenient about it. He blasted me over my firm response, thinking nothing of his own actions that caused the incident in the first place.
If we’re only interested in being right and can’t demonstrate love and humility in spite of it, our train has come off its rails. We’re missing the point if we try to boil everything down to right and wrong. This doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for our actions, but the higher truth in any situation requires some act of love. This is where the “spirit” of the law takes precedence over the law itself. Should there be balance? Of course! But there’s a fine line between reproof and judgment and it takes a great deal of thought, prayer, and humility to not step over it. There is love in reproof because it seeks to restore, while there is no love in judgment because it seeks destroy.
All too often our expectations lead to control and judgment of others. We think that our thinking, our call of God, our ways, and our righteousness is better. We point to the bible and demand, “Submit!” We hold our hands over hearts and feel as if we need to take responsibility for everyone and everything. This is nothing more than self-righteous pride bought on by mindsets and expectations that are exalted against the knowledge of God.
Making matters worse, often times, those expectations we have are not voiced as if we expect others to read our minds. Then when expectations are not met, we become wounded when we don’t get our way. That type of behavior is no different than reacting like the world does in the absence of God. By contrast, a strong spiritual leader must learn to recognize the voice of God and see trials and opposition more as opportunities to grow deeper and depend on him rather than the work of the enemy.
Many of us are still striving and trying to get the attention of others. We see our value tied up in the numbers of those who join us and believe like us. We have not yet learned that disappointments may be a work of the cross.
The time has come for us to stop babying our people. Trusting in God must replace control and judgment. That doesn’t mean that you don’t speak truth, but you do so in love, and then let God do his work rather than parent through expectations that God did not put there. What this comes down to is the need for more understanding for how to partner with the work of the Holy Spirit and to trust him more to carry it out instead of us holding people to laws. Therefore, we should always extend a hand toward others, but we should never force it any more than God does.
God’s agenda is always centered on our seeking him. Our agenda is always centered on submission and obedience. The truth is that in our seeking, submission takes care of itself. Therefore, the higher truth is seek over submit, for it is better to obey than to sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22).
One truth we know is that Jesus paid for all sins and judgment on the cross, and he did it for all time. It all belongs to him, not us. If that’s true, there is no judgment left for us in this world.
When need to learn to stop projecting expectations and leave the judgment to Jesus. We need to learn to become a filter that others pass through on their journey with God, rather be a net that seeks to control everything that comes its way. This is the apex for where a kingdom view begins to emerge.
The pathway to the kingdom is easy to see when the obstacles of judgment have been removed. Though the path to judgment is paved with expectations, the path to the kingdom is paved by surrender.