The topic of critical Christians is a tricky one; however, I think this provides a great opportunity to discuss, or at least hear my thoughts and then respond. Disclaimer number two is that this blog is not just a reaction against negative comments about me being in a gambling ad with alcohol on my tray. To be honest, I haven't had tons of negative comments. Actually, none to my face. I have heard rumblings, of course, and I have felt some judgment based on veiled comments and nonverbal expressions. But, this unique situation has made me think about an issue I've felt passionate about for a very long time, and I would be remiss if I didn't open the can of worms for all to peruse.
As I ruminated on this, I was reminded of a book I read many, many years ago by Rick Joyner. In The Final Quest, he describes a horrifying scene in "The Hordes of Hell are Marching." In this chapter, there is a vast army led by Satan himself. While they are marching against their Enemy, they also keep fighting against each other. Behind the army, there are prisoners more numerous than their captors. Joyner writes about his vision:
Occasionally the weaker prisoners would stumble and fall. As soon as they hit the ground, the other prisoners would begin stabbing them with their swords, scorning them as they did this. The vultures would then come and begin devouring the fallen ones even before they were dead. The other Christian prisoners stood by watching this approvingly, occasionally stabbing the fallen one again with their swords.
As I watched, I realized that these prisoners thought that the vomit of Condemnation [raining down on them from the demonic vultures] was truth from God. Then I understood that these prisoners actually thought they were marching in the army of God! This is why they did not kill the little demons of fear, or the vultures--they thought these were messengers from God! The darkness from the cloud of vultures made it so hard for these prisoners to see that they naively accepted everything that happened to them as being from the Lord. They felt that those who stumbled were under God's judgment, which is why they attacked them the way they did--they thought that they were helping God!
Does this resonate with anyone else? Let's widen this excerpt up a little and talk about unity within the Body (what a critical spirit breaks down) starting at one of the highest levels. How many denominations are there? I actually don't even know. MANY. Denominations, simplistically, form when there's disagreement in the church over doctrine. And then what do we Christians do? We criticize other denominations or, at the very least, poke fun at them. I am guilty of this more than I'd like to admit.
Okay, let's go a little smaller. How many people have either been a part of a church split, or know someone who has? I know Karl and I started dating during a nasty one--he stayed as youth pastor, my family left. I'll never forget the time I went back to the church (while Karl was still there) and someone actually said to me, "You're not going to take him away from us, are you?" Still today I know there are people that walked away from church (perhaps forever) because of the unChrist-like way Christians treated each other.
Finally, let's go smaller still. How many of us have been criticized by another Christian or been critical of one ourselves? I am guilty of this as well. It is so easy to do! We as people are so quick to judge, but THAT IS NOT OUR JOB!!! Over and over again Scripture talks about this issue. It is God who judges. We are commanded, first and foremost, to love--both God and others. Judgment, I have found, very rarely comes when love is at the forefront of my mind. Even in the case of sin (not gray areas), no one responds well to judgment. Just tonight I had a little example of this. I have a teenage friend that calls me Mom and Karl, Dad. She is very precious to us. Recently, she got in trouble with the law. She has just lately come back into our lives, so I didn't realize this. She didn't want to talk about it because she didn't want me to "nag." I said to her, "Do you know what you did was wrong?" "Yes," she replied. "Okay, then. No nagging required." "You're so sweet," she simply responded. I think the lack of judgment (demonstrated by not "nagging") spoke volumes to her.
Again, in the case of clear sin, most people know what they're doing/did is wrong. They don't need us to remind them. Of course, there are exceptions to this statement. There are times when, out of love, God may lead you to speak with someone dear to you about choices they're making that seem to be leading them down a dark path. We need the Body of Christ. I just believe far too often we speak out of self-righteousness or pride or fear or jealousy instead of out of love. When this is done, our words don't help people "see the error of their ways" and lead them back to the Lord, they drive them further away. And this isn't even addressing all the gray issues out there! For me, I think with gray issues, you keep your thoughts to yourself, unless asked. If the person isn't a believer, they don't want your unsollicited opinion on choices they're making that you disagree with. If they are believers, then they have the Holy Spirit within them to help with these very questions that may have different answers for different people. I believe God regularly leads one Christian to do one thing and another to do something totally different--even opposite! He is that big, powerful, and creative! We need to worry about our own obedience to our God, not everyone else's. So, if we say we trust Him, maybe we need to start acting like it, not just in matters of our own lives, but also those matters involving others. I, for one, think doing this will make things a lot less complicated.
This isn't meant to be a monologue. I would love to hear feedback from people. Examples, stories....it can be like a big *Encounter by way of the blogosphere....I can't wait to hear what people have to contribute!
*Encounter is Karl's Tuesday night service that besides having a worship and teaching component, has dialogue at tables interwoven throughout.