Several weeks ago a friend of mine encouraged me to talk about the difference between being judgmental and identifying something amiss and speaking out about it. How does one walk that fine line?
I’ve avoided writing about it because, very honestly, I'm terrible at this. As Christ-followers, what are we supposed to do when we see things which are not in accordance with God’s Word? I’m still not sure, and so I offer the following thoughts with more than a little trepidation.
First of all, in reading through the Bible, it seems two significant things which infuriate our holy, almighty God are (1) worshiping anything other than Him, and (2) treating the poor with contempt.
Over and over again in the Old Testament (and beyond!), humans turn to idols. The consequences for doing so do not only impact the individual who sins, but potentially the entire community. Along with idols goes treating God as if He is small and lacking in power. As if He is just a ‘local god’, not the Creator of all things.
When the people turned away from Him, or else chose to worship Him with only part, not all, of their loyalty, God responded quickly and thoroughly. I believe this is why God killed Aaron’s sons, Achen, and others who disobeyed Him. What seemed excessive was really a way to safeguard the whole of the Israelite people.
The treatment of those who are unable to protect themselves is another big deal. What I’ve noticed, too, is that God ties acceptable worship of Him inextricably to how we respond to those in need. In fact, it seems if we are mistreating those who are broken, despised and rejected, God will treat our worship in the same way.
God says He finds our worship stinky and unacceptable if we don’t treat the lowest of the low as if we are serving Jesus when we care for them. He seems to go even further - even though He deserves us spending every second, every breath in adoration of Him, Him seems to say He'd rather we not bother if we are ignoring the needs to the poor. I don’t know about you, but to me this is powerful stuff!
When Jesus spoke harshly, it was with those who thought they had it all together, who were on the inside, powerful and full of knowledge.
Time and again Jesus speaks out against those who were essentially making a game out of worshiping His Father. I’ll do A-B-C and then You, Omniscient, Omnipresent God will do D-E-F for me. And, if some lowlife undesirables are stepped on, well, You understand. They wouldn’t be in the mess they’re in if they were deserving of Your favor.
Jesus became incensed and even violent when He saw that worship was about the one doing the worship, not our the Author of worship. He became furious when those who claimed to follow His Father used their power and influence to mistreat the poor.
It is interesting to me that while Jesus certainly did not just let sin go, He was gentle with those who were broken and knew they were sinning. It was those who thought they weren't sinning who received His ire.
Jesus lived His life to bring His Father glory. Part of that was to show what worshiping in Spirit and Truth looked like. He didn’t spend 24/7 in synagogues. Yes, He did worship in that way, but His entire life was an act of worship.
When our lives do not reflect that same complete worship, we are missing the mark. And, we owe it to each other to find firm and helpful ways to point that out. Yes, this is where it can get difficult, but we must speak out against those things which God has clearly stated are unacceptable to Him.
As Christ-followers, standing by and allowing sin to seep into our places of worship, our fellowship of believers, into the Body, is as unconscionable as seeing a child toddle into the road and not rushing out to snatch him back from danger. Sure, it may startle him, and even hurt a bit as you yank him to safety, but the alternative is far, far worse.
Do I have clarity in how to go about this? Nope, not even close! I think the first step is to really analyze what it is that gets me hacked off. Lots of stuff does, but it’s not all the same stuff that God is concerned about. There’s plenty in the world to be angry about but I need to focus on those things which the Word reveals anger my Savior.
I need to learn how to keep still about a lot of things, but I believe I need to learn appropriate, God-glorifying ways to address fellow believers who are tempting others to substitute idols, or a weak, ‘candy machine’ God (put in a coin, get a prize) for the Holy, Living, Missionary God we serve.
I also need to defend those who cannot defend themselves. When systems and situations are in place which hurt those we are called to help, we must respond. I need to find my voice for those without any.
Friends, this is tough stuff, and I’m not sure I’m any closer to figuring it out. I welcome your thoughts. And, let’s keep striving and struggling together to bring acceptable worship to our Triune God. That means not just on Sundays, but our entire lives must be focused on the things He has told us matter.
What does the Lord require of us? To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. We’ve got our marching orders! Together, through the Spirit, we can do this!!