This won’t be a popular post. That’s okay.
I just read a story that said Rev. Fred Phelps died. If you don’t know, he was the founding pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. He was known for fire-and-brimstone preaching and leading picketing, anti-gay protests, even at military funerals.
As I read the story and remembered the protests, I wondered how effective those protests were. I think I know. They still go on today. They probably have the same impact that Rev. Phelps’ protests had: None.
I applaud passion. As the saying goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll stand for anything.” I know some of the beliefs Rev. Phelps held closely. I hold many, if not all, of the same core beliefs. However, I think his methods were all wrong.
As you may know, our church is working its way through a wonderful book, The Good and Beautiful Life, by James Bryan Smith. This week, we’re working through the chapter entitled,”Learning to Live Without Judging Others.” I say “working”, because, if you’re like me, this quality of Christ-likeness is a work-in-progress.
Life is made up of continually evaluating people and things. Good things and bad things. Beneficial things and detrimental things. It’s how we’re brought up. We pick and choose what we’re going to eat, what we’re going to wear, where we’re going to live, and so much more based on evaluation and assessment. And as we grow up, we are constantly being evaluated. We get good grades and bad grades. (At least some of us get bad grades.) We get performance evaluations each year at work. It’s a lifetime of assessment and evaluation.
When our kids mess up, we sit them down and have a “Come-to-Jesus” meeting. Sometimes, this “dressing-down” seems to work. So, when we do this to adults we don’t know, we think it normal. We think that’s what we’re supposed to do. One of the reasons this doesn’t seem to work is we aren’t standing with them in their struggle. James Bryan Smith says, “Judging makes a negative evaluation of others without standing in solidarity with them. When we judge others we are criticizing them, but not as a caring friend who wants to help.”
What we also don’t really grasp is that we are dealing with human beings formed in God’s image. The person we “evaluate” has as much value in God’s eyes as we do. They are loved by God as much as God loves us. And when we point out their faults, give them “a good talkin’-to”, or worse, show up with in a picket line with signs in our hands, we think a lightbulb will go on and they’ll magically see the light and come to their senses and become just like us.
When I say, “us”, I mean Christians. And I include myself. We are so guilty of this. Not all Christians and probably not you. But I am so guilty of this, in one form or another. We quote our Scriptures, paint them on our signs, and blast those whom we feel need “a good talkin’-to.” We do it to gays, Democrats, Republicans, Evolutionists, co-workers, and even our spouse. We do it all the time. We do it nearly every day to folks who don’t agree with us, sometimes without even realizing it. Do we really think this is effective?
I, for one, don’t. In fact, I believe it hurts the cause of Christ. It breeds hatred, both in us (as Christians), and in those we want to reach. Don’t get me wrong: We don’t need to dilute the truth. But now more than ever, we need to show the truth in love, maybe more than “speaking the truth in love.” Because we’ve done a lot of speaking… without a lot of loving.
And as I touched on, this applies not only to homosexuals, but to anyone we disagree with or whom we feel needs “to hear the truth.” We think we can act like, as Joyce Meyer would say, “Holy Spirit, Jr.” We think it’s our place to set them straight, as opposed to allowing God do it.
In my view – and it’s only my view – Christ-followers need to show God’s love to those who are desperately searching for love. We need to give away love. We need to give away hope. We need to be light. We’ve been blessed to be a blessing.
The Righteous Judge is coming one day. I’ll leave the judging to Him.