As I was working on this particular blog this morning my husband came in and began to talk about a Facebook posting made by a mutual friend. Sarah** had posted on Facebook that sometimes there were posts from people who made her want to puke. She didn’t say why or whose but I immediately felt such relief that there was someone who had the same feeling I did about some posts that I jumped on her bandwagon without even knowing which ones she meant. Confession, I had to go back and delete my response to her post.
The conversation between my husband and I continued with me admitting I had responded to Sarah’s post before thinking much about it. Feeling justified in my response because I struggle with particular kinds of posts even though Sarah hadn’t mentioned any particular kind herself. My husband however, pointed out that shouldn’t we be uplifting one another, not condemning them? OUCH! Divine intervention considering what I was writing about today.
If there is nothing else that modern life supplies us with it is fast food fodder for jokes, judgment and jesting. Our egotistical “it can’t happen to me (or mine)” mindset rears its head quickly. Our fingers can’t seem to stop themselves from trashing someone via all the many electronic communication forums at our fingertips.
You know the fodder I’m talking about. The same things that we all have condemned in people for centuries are now wide open to our “two cents worth” in a far more public arena. The unwed and pregnant teenager, the son arrested for D.U.I., the spouse who has an affair, the spouse cheated on, the public servant who steals our money, or the public official who accepts bribes, the sports hero who has domestic violence problems or a girlfriend who doesn’t exist.
“But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Yes it is plain our technology and electronic formats for keeping in touch come with a great number of positive and negative attributes. The cutting edge of the sword is that we are quick to rush to judgment, proclaim that verdict and publicly announce it.*
Just because we can exercise our right to Freedom of Speech doesn’t mean we should. Just as because we can do a lot of things that are legally protected and “approved” by society doesn’t mean we should do them. It may be your right to do something, it may not be to your benefit or anyone else’s for you to exercise that right. I have the right to write what I want to, including quick and profitable immoral things. I choose NOT to exercise my right in that arena.
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” Romans 14:19-23
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”
What happens when we bash the latest celebrity for their D.U.I., domestic issues, their downfall from the top, or the same things in our neighbors? The very thing we begin condemning –such as sex outside of marriage – becomes the “norm” not the exception. How? Because after a while it is such an everyday occurrence we no longer think of it as unusual.
We’ve gone from a society that so heartlessly condemned unwed mothers, forcing them to hide away, raise their children as their younger brother or sister, give up their children for adoption or abort them illegally to the other far extreme when a pregnancy outside of marriage is barely is a blip on the radar and neither is the aborting of a life than is inconvenient to our own. (Unless of course you are a public figure and it serves your opponent to tout that by this occurrence in your family for it proves you are immoral and unfit for public service.) But before I can condemn a young woman who becomes pregnant outside of marriage I have to think twice, for there but by the grace of God go I.
Everyone has sin in their life, EVERYONE and at the top of that list is my own name. I make decisions that are disgraceful to me, my family and above all else, the God I have promised to serve. And, I am as guilty as anyone else for publicly condemning people I perceive as being in the wrong such as the mayor convicted of accepting bribes to assure certain companies receive big money contracts for example or the Facebook posts of those whose lives seem too good to be true.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
I John 1:8
I do think we show no mercy, no compassion, no understanding when the event, happening or relationship in another’s life is one we are so sure we’d see as a fake, set-up, or giving into a weakness we could easily conquer. In the lives of public figures, we can argue that they accept the “glass bowl” when they accept the public office or spotlight for they must also accept the scrutiny of the public. But in the lives of our neighbors what argument can we present in our defense when we condemn them?
People with evil intentions can deliberately exploit a person’s vulnerabilities, those secret needs we attempt to hide, the scars over wounds that will never quite heal – we all want to be loved, accepted, and appreciated. It’s far easier to fall prey to such a trap than we want to acknowledge to ourselves. Even for people who have “it all” in our viewpoint from the stands.
“The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood…”
Firmly rooted in my understanding of myself is the knowledge that in the right circumstances I have the capacity to do great harm to myself or other people. I have vulnerabilities that if exploited open me up to the evil intentions of other people. There, but by the grace of God, go I.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
I Corinthians 15:10
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
So I’m going to try really hard to be more of an encourager than one who condemns. When I see someone who has fallen I want to be someone who lifts them up, not stomps them down. Come to think of it, didn’t Jesus speak on this?
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Abba Father, please, help me see the plank in my eye. Help me love the sinner yet not the sin. Help me beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing without losing all trust in my fellow-man. Teach me to discern a person’s spirit, love them anyway, and reach out to help them without falling in the pit myself. The power of Satan is strong Lord and I am weak. Please be my protection, shield and strength. Help me not to condemn but encourage. Help me use the amazing technology you’ve allowed man to develop for Your edification, Your glory not to sin. – Amen
*August 1, 2011.
**Name changed to protect privacy.
***All scripture from the New International translation of the scriptures.