Monthly Archives: July 2014

The New American Sin

A friend of mine shared my previous post and made a comment that I want to address. Here’s the comment

Alice Comment Share (anonymous)

Instead of shoving opinions and judgments on others, just LISTEN and LOVE

I want to make it clear that I don’t disagree with this comment necessarily. However, I want to make sure people don’t misinterpret what I wrote in my last post. I don’t want my focus on relating to and loving others to be distorted. In our politically correct culture, people tend to be horrified by the idea of judgment. To judge someone is to commit grievous sin in America. Self-help articles show people how to stop judging others. Pithy quotes like this one see judging and love as incompatible. I see people constantly bemoaning Christians who judge people. This guy wants Christians to stop judging others. This person wonders why religious people are so judgmental. According to others, this prohibition against judging comes straight from Jesus; the proof is in Matthew 7:1-3.

Don’t bother reading the Bible in context, guys.

Let’s think about this for a second. What exactly does it mean to judge other people? Too many people forget to answer this question and assume we are all speaking the same language. I decided to look up the word in a dictionary and here are the relevant definitions. To judge means:

1) to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises

2)to form an estimate or evaluation of, especially: to form a negative opinion about

3)to hold as an opinion

4)to form an opinion

According to the dictionary, judging roughly means forming an opinion or coming to a conclusion. So when we judge people, we are forming opinions about them. That doesn’t seem so bad does it? In fact, it would be impossible to stop judging people because we can’t help but form opinions about them. When we see a man walk into a store holding the hand of a little girl, most of us form an opinion about the man; we think him to be a father. When a guy walks down the street in a suit and tie holding a briefcase, we form an opinion about him. When we see a guy hit a girl, we form an opinion about him, her and the relationship. When we walk into Starbucks and see a girl wearing a green apron, we form an conclusion about her. Judging people is inescapable. This is obviously not what Jesus warned against.

Some might say that judging means to form a negative opinion about someone, especially when there isn’t enough information. The idea is that we can’t judge people until we really get to know them. Oh really? So we aren’t allowed to form any opinions about someone until we really get to know them? Is it just me or does that sound a bit childish and naive? Does this mean that the neighbors of these serial killers were wrong to think these serial killers normal because they “didn’t really know them”? Who get’s to decide when there is enough information to form an opinion about someone? If I see a guy who comes into Starbucks every time I’m there and every time I see him lie, then I can’t judge him a liar because I “don’t really know him”? I doubt Jesus was talking about that.

So then what exactly was Jesus talking about? Well, it’s kind of funny because as quick as people are to turn to Matthew 7, many never bother reading the whole passage. Let’s look at this verse here.

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (emphasis mine)

Many are quick to quote to first part about not judging, but forget the rest of the passage, especially the last part. According to the passage here, if we see clearly, then it is ok to remove the speck from someone’s eye. When we read the rest of the passage, we can see that Jesus referred to hypocritical judging. Christians aren’t supposed to judge with hypocrisy.

The problem that I see is that people have distorted the meaning of this passage beyond recognition. In today’s culture, we aren’t allowed to confront people because its judgmental and unloving. We aren’t allow to call people out when they do something stupid, sinful, rude or mean because that isn’t real love. Really? That’s a stupid way to live. This might sound radical, but sometimes we judge and call someone out BECAUSE we love and care about that person or the people they are hurting. Judging people and loving them are very well compatible.

Jesus spoke out against hypocrisy. It was one of things he frequently called the Pharisees out on. Let me illustrate what Jesus was speaking out against with an example. Awhile back, I was in a long-distance relationship with a girl. It was my first serious relationship. Anyway, things got pretty heated and we became very physical. It wasn’t straight up intercourse, but we definitely toed the line. Both me and my girlfriend at the time had a mutual friend. We both found out that this mutual friend was sexually active with her boyfriend and eventually became pregnant.  All three of us claimed to be Christians. The kicker is that both me and my girlfriend talked about how stupid this other friend was and how sinful she was. We really looked down on her. For some reason, it didn’t cross my mind nor my girlfriend’s mind that we were being huge hypocrites. I look back on it now and want to smack myself upside the head for being so stupid. This is the kind of thing Jesus spoke out against. People condemning others for the same thing they, themselves, do. Simply calling someone out on their crap is NOT a bad thing nor is it unloving. Parents call their kids out and punish them BECAUSE they love their kids. If Al finds out that his best friend, Bill is having an affair, Al can and should call Bill out on it. However, if Al is also having an affair, calling Bill out on his affair is stupid and the epitome of hypocrisy. This is what Jesus spoke out against. Don’t let people tell you to stop judging them for calling out their crap. Go ahead and call people out on their crap, just make sure you aren’t guilty of the same thing.

The Conversion Game

In my last post, I wrote about the current climate that American Christianity operates in. One of my points was that simply spouting off Bible verses in an attempt to convert people to Christianity no longer works. We don’t live in a culture where such a method is conducive to people actually coming to Christianity.  So then the obvious question comes up, so what can we as Christians do? How do we, as Christians fulfill our duty?

Well, if you are looking for a simple formula or method to get people converted, you’re in the wrong place. In fact, I have a problem with Christians seeking the “perfect formula” for converting people.  When you think in terms of formulas and methods, you risk viewing all non-Christians as potential converts rather than as humans and every conversation becomes an attempt to convert that person. People are smart and many, if not all, will see right through your façade and get angry with you because they will see that you don’t care about them; you only care about converting them. People aren’t potential notches on your evangelistic bedpost. They are real, breathing human beings with their own history, their own personality, their own struggles and their own life.

I’ve been to quite a few “evangelism rallies” and church events where the focus is primarily on getting as many people to say the “Lord’s prayer” as possible. Just say those magical words and BOOM! You’re now a Christian. Congratulations, you are going to heaven, next person in line please. I always thought these events bordered on ridiculous because the whole thing played out more like a numbers game. As long as we maximize the number of people praying the magical prayer, we should be ok. Personally, I’ve lost faith in this sort of thing because I’ve seen too many people come back from these rallies high on emotion and within the week completely forget their “conversion”. I’ve seen friends at Christian camps become emotion junkies, pray the prayer, get baptized, come home and completely renounce Christianity a few months later. What good does that do? Yes, yes, we can rationalize it away and say these people were the seeds that fell among rocky soil; however, if the manner in which Christians are reaching out to people consistently produce these kinds of results, then maybe the problem is with the method and not the person.

Listen for a second to this song and think about what this guy is saying.

Let me be clear about this. There is no “formula” for getting people converted and any attempt to find one is futile. I believe Christians should stop being concerned with methods and simply adapt to the situation at hand. You can start by just listening for a change. Shut up and just listen to what the other person has to say. Stop thinking about converting them. Start by building up friendships and getting to actually know the person. Also learn about the world around you; learn some science, learn some logic, learn history, learn politics, learn about atheism, learn about the things that are going on nowadays. Learn to actually care about the person you are befriending. Don’t befriend people just to convert them, most people will see right through it. Immerse yourself in the culture around you in order to better understand the people around you.

Most importantly, realize that our duty isn’t to convert people but to make disciples, to make followers, students, etc. We are duty-bound to let people know the message of Christianity and, once they respond, to TRAIN them as Christians. How you go about sharing your beliefs with other people is your business, just remember that people can see whether you really care about them or just care about converting them.