I have watched the climate in our nation (and other nations too) get increasingly abrasive and divisive. This happens in the public square, within homes and families, and in the household of God- the church. I see an outpouring of intense hate masked within “I’m telling it like it is” language that somehow people have come to appreciate or pride themselves in. This ranges from topics on family values, sexuality, guns, terrorism, politics, the presidency, and so much more. This sort of behavior can be expected when there are polar opposite views and one is convinced that any view contrary to theirs is downright ludicrous. However, this kind of behavior is not to be expected within the household of God. God’s home just does not operate this way.

God’s Household

Unfortunately, the current trend in churches or general ‘Christian’ (I use that word loosely) discourse on social media and other forums is like watching a really bad family dynamic on display in a Walmart aisle where the parents and kids lash out at each other, hurl insults at the store rep, throw merchandise, and just act ticked off at anyone who passes by. When any one of us have encountered that kind of situation, we are aghast that people would behave like that in a public space, let alone in private. We then internally presume what their home life might look like. Sadly, this is what some (a lot) of God’s family looks like out in the world. The church curmudgeon is alive and well. It is almost like God is not a good parent and His kids just spout off whatever comes to their mind, and dig their heels in until they get their way, or just destroy everything in their wake.

The church is meant to be light in a dark place, a rescue zone from the fire, a place of reconciliation and adoption, a people who value God’s kingdom more than theirs, a movement bringing the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. This is all summed up in the simple statement “GO”.  The great commission has Jesus at the center, His Holy Spirit working in power, and God the Father being glorified as many who have sat in darkness see a great light and run to God. Oddly, we have turned this command to GO…into another kind of go. These days many churches have gone into survival mode, battening down the hatches and hoping the “bad people” out there would just GO away. This is fundamentally missing a big part of our primary calling.  

All the things I just mentioned about our calling are scriptural and true, yet we settle for an air of religiosity without the life altering encounters with our Savior every day.God’s household is one where mercy triumphs over judgment.

This does not mean an absence of judging rightly, but we’ll get into that later. So often, the need to be on the right side of the argument has brought people within the church to be on the right side of God’s law but on the wrong side of God’s heart. You might think I’m crazy for suggesting that; sounding like I’m making God’s love some mushy “anything goes” kind of embrace, or I’m setting aside a desire to let God’s Word supersede any contrary belief or thought. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and only highlights the current predicament facing Christians. We fear looking or sounding like that, so we hit for the fences in our disapproval, hate, and revulsion, just so everyone knows we don’t side with ‘that’ thing. Little do we realize, our leap to be on the right side of things, has us leaping right out of any contact with the very people we are here to see reconciled  to God (2 Cor 5:18).

Here are three things I have learned that have helped me navigate these difficult times. I hope it helps you too.

  • Sin is Sin:
    God’s Word is the plumb-line of what we call truth and error. That is not up for debate. You cannot paint anything contrary to God’s Word to be right in any cultural context, personal experience, or otherwise. To suggest as such would be entertaining the idea that God isn’t really clear about how He approaches sin or has varying standards. Using this same principle, those who are currently Christian must fully understand that ANY sin is still sin. Jealousy, greed, lust, envy, anger, pride etc…all labeled sin with the same penalty- DEATH (Rom 6:23).

    With that short, by no means exhaustive list of sins I mentioned there, I just nailed every Christian that ever lived and the ones still breathing today. Jesus still thinks the sin you currently entertain in your life is disgusting, revile worthy, and not compatible with His presence. So, where does that leave you, friend? I hope you see how much mercy we have received  at the cross of Jesus, and the grace we continue to receive on a daily basis to put to death all the things that are not compatible with Jesus being formed in us (Rom 8:13, Gal 4:19). Recognizing the mercy I have received and continue to every single day, puts me in a place to be merciful when judging things rightly.
  • Righteousness is for the righteous:
    This might seem an odd statement, but one worth mentioning. In the context of the new birth we have received in Jesus, He took our place of death for sin committed that we might be called the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). This provision is for anyone in Christ. The life expected in such people is one of righteousness, where the deeds that lead to death are exposed, confronted, and laid aside that Christ might live through them (Gal 2:20). This is not so for those who are apart from Jesus, nor believe in Him as their Savior. They will not display, nor desire to display the fruit of righteousness, or live a life undergoing the transformation of Christ.

    Understanding this point is critical to our effectiveness in reaching this generation for Jesus. To expect such a response to God’s law is almost like me expecting a newborn baby to get in a car and drive because it’s established knowledge that people transport themselves by car. The awareness, understanding and necessary tools are simply absent. We have long enjoyed the assumption that society was on the same track as a Judeo-Christian worldview. We assumed that there is a “common knowledge” with a collective right or wrong. While people might argue that ‘back in the good ol’ days’ there was common understanding of right or wrong, I would argue that much of that idea was purported on the surface in civil discourse while sin bred rampantly in private. A simple history lesson will show you that a godly grasp of righteousness has never been the standard of this world. It never has, and it never will be. The ubiquitous statement “anyone/everyone knows…” is a generalization one should never make when talking about sin and righteousness.
  • Judgment versus judging what is right:
    As discussed earlier, God’s view on what He calls sin, has not changed as culture has “evolved”. God’s Word is not just relevant, but as applicable and trustworthy for today’s situations for training in righteousness and correction (2 Tim 3:16-17). When in doubt, look at Jesus’ response to situations that seemed to out of context with established norms and watch how He practiced God’s heart alongside His law. For all the judging and finger wagging that is taking place right now, we must accept that God is actually the only one who owns the title “The Judge” (2 Cor 5:10, Act 10:42, Jam 5:9).

    Jesus never watered down God’s law, but at every turn sought to draw people to know God, His Father…now our Father. Rather than show them the enormity of the chasm between God’s law and their lifestyle, He engaged the ungodly with His presence being fully aware that there was not a godly bone in their body.  Instead, He fully expected those encounters to change their story. His presence exposed and judged things so well internally, most times He didn’t have to even call it out publicly. They yielded with gratitude, confessed, and repented. He did this so often that He earned another less glamorous reputation of being a  “friend of sinners”(Luke 19:1-10, Luke 7:36-50).

    In judging what is right and biblical, we must not lose sight of the fact that our mission in this age is to present an unbelieving godless world an encounter with the living God, Our Father. Judgment is coming, but for now, mercy and grace is the clarion call to any who would hear, receive, and live. This must quicken the church to go out into the field and work diligently to bring the harvest of people encountering God into the barn. The time is short and judgment is certainly off the menu for now.

    I hope you see that judging rightly and living in step with God’s Word is wonderful and expected of us as believers. This will often put us at odds with the world around and so it must. But we must never convert that into a platform for judging the world. “The Judge” has deferred that for another time. For now He is the savior to all with the price He paid, once for all. This is our message to the world. His convicting of sin isn’t done with a grandstanding of His moral code and lifestyle, but rather with the embrace of a Savior who steps past their offense to a place where love casts out fear and effects a change. This is a far more confronting face-off with the world, because encounters with God cannot be faked (not for long at least). So while the moral code might be intact, are we able to introduce an ungodly world to encounters with a merciful God? There-in lies the rub.

Representing God Well

In facing our world, I would caution us in how we interact and pass judgment. What you and I say on social media is a declaration to an unbelieving world and it is proceeding out of what fills our hearts (Luke 6:45). Make sure your heart is guarded well; words are not just words (Prov 4:23). When someone slings mud, you don’t have to sling it back.  There is too much of eternal value to be done! Our God has given us a job to do in preserving and rescuing this generation we live in as salt and light. Our exposing, and calling out of things are meant to be in the context of encounters with God.

Let this example from Jesus’ ministry help you:

John 8: 3-113 
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 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. 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.”

In the passage’s context, any one who ‘files a grievance’ (think about today’s legal proceedings) bringing a witness against a person and had another corroborate with their witness, it was a done deal and judgment was executed according to the law…in this case, a stoning to death! Jesus intervenes before this gets going by calling the crowd who have found the glory in publicly shaming sin in the adulterous person  to cast the first stone if they have no sin in them (It is worth noting that some in this crowd might have already slept with this woman through prostitution).

Jesus goes to the heart of God’s law which is holiness unto God and not just superficial piety. He questions whether the one “caught” is any more guilty than all those standing around her who weren’t. The crowd quickly dissipates when faced with this stark reality, but that’s not the cool part. Now she is face to face with “The Judge” and he still had a legitimate standing in society to raise a motion for judgment based on His witness and He wouldn’t find trouble getting a second. But He looks her in the eye and says “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” He judges that this sin is not compatible with God’s law, but extends mercy that holiness unto God might be this woman’s story.

Eliminating adultery wasn’t the goal, even though that would be wonderful. Drawing someone who was apart from God our Father to an encounter with Him took precedence.  This encounter opened this dear lady to living a life unto God in holiness. When God changes hearts, adultery and any other “sin” is exposed within, drawing people to repentance.

Public shaming and admission of guilt is confronting, but confronting our self and dying to our selves is the hardest thing. We can sometimes fool ourselves with public positions on key Christian issues, but we can’t fool God; He watches for a heart of humility and repentance. God rewrites people’s story every day. All it takes is an encounter with the Savior and a heart willing to receive His help. Let us be good agents of God’s presence that many such encounters with the Savior might happen on our watch. Judgment is coming, but not yet. Let’s use this time well. I would simply ask you to embrace God’s heart for the world He loves so much, and live it out.

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