I’ve been enjoying some fascinating conversations with ‘normal’ Christians on blogs and social media. I have come to the conclusion that I am not a normal Christian. I must be a ‘crazy’ Christian because I’m at odds with a lot of accepted Christian norms.
I listened to a youth minister named Chris Stefanick the other day on a CD called “Relativism.” In this one hour talk, he makes the argument that relativism is bad and absolutism is good. He uses an emotionally charged style of speaking that I found devoid of substance or scripture. He was speaking to a group of young people and his use of rhetoric and unrelated imagery (i.e. the attacks of 9-11) on fragile minds disturbed me. When I voiced my concerns to a couple of fellow church members who had also listened to the CD, I was greeted with looks of dismay. They bought it lock stock and barrel. When I wrote a thumbs down review on the website, it was not published amid the handful of five star reviews. Call me crazy.
A month ago, I posted this photo of a rainbow colored house on my Facebook page. It’s one that a gay group bought in front of what is arguably the most judgmental church in America – Westboro Baptist in Topeka, Kansas. They had a demonstration recently with signs that read, “God hates homosexuals.” I posted it and merely remarked, “A clear example of how judging others has the opposite effect of getting what you want.” http://ow.ly/jfKIQ
Well, that started a fire, baby! 35 postings later, I enjoyed an engaging debate with four people from across America on what it means to “judge.” They argued that sinners must be kicked out of church if they don’t repent. I argued there would be no one left in the church. They used scripture (Mt 18:15-17) to justify the cause. However, I realized that this scripture actually defends that there is actually no basis to kick homosexuals out of a church. They are sinners like everyone else. That is definitely not a normal view; hence I’m a crazy Christian. You can view the whole debate dated March 20th at https://www.facebook.com/NonjudgmentalChristian
The biggest norm I am at odds with is Christians’ outright rejection of Jesus’ teaching on non-judgment. A lovely Christian woman and author named Sheila Wray Gregoire wrote an article on her blog entitled, “Having an opinion does not make you judgmental.” Her heart was in the right place, wanting to say to her readers that it is okay to voice your Christian views on moral matters. Like many Christians, she feels she gets labeled as being judgmental if she objects to the seemingly ‘everything goes’ moral code of our secular society.
Unfortunately, the net impression gave a license to her readers to judge all the sinning going on out there (in my opinion). “It’s human nature,” she concludes to justify her view. When I tried to draw her into a debate on not judging, she stood her ground, saying Jesus had a black and white moral code and asks us to have one too. One reader responded to me, “Sir, you are mistaken.” When I asked for scriptural evidence, I got a reply that was seriously out of context. The normal Christian response is sweeping generalizations like “Love the sinner but hate the sin.” There is no basis in scripture for that phrase that I can find. As one reader put it, most people have trouble separating the wrongdoer from the wrongdoing. Think of how much love you feel for murderers like Russell Williams or Paul Bernardo.
I invited both groups of readers to get a free chapter from my book The Non-Judgmental Christian to consider the possibility that Jesus was not kidding about non-judgment. Not one person took up the offer. I can only conclude that normal Christians love to judge and will stand by it fiercely, mostly on the basis that if God judges, so should we. My own study of Scripture does not support that. The Bible is clear that God is the only judge. The apostle James captured this beautifully when he wrote, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?” (Ja 4:12)
The irony in this is that not judging has proven itself to be a path to deep inner peace for me. Call me crazy, but that was the main reason I became a Jesus follower! He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (Jn 14:27) Choosing to practice Jesus’ teaching on not judging may not be normal, but it is rewarding. I am saddened by how many Christians I meet who have no peace. With very little digging, it is evident that they are trapped in the self-fulfilling cycle of judgmentalism that Jesus warned would happen.
I also notice that normal Christians believe that you have to “speak the truth” into non-Christians. I listened to a CD on the dangers of homosexuality by Pastor John MacArthur, a well-known evangelist from California. While his talk was legalistically correct, I could not imagine a single non-Christian, particularly a homosexual, wanting to follow Jesus based on his talk. Condemnation was the underlying theme, always cloaked in the phrase, “Speak the truth in love.”
Call me crazy but I find that Jesus’s teaching about taking the plank out of your eye (your judgments) actually helps you successfully remove the speck from the eye of others (Mt 7:5), just as he promised it would. As I wrote to Ms. Gregoire, I hope it is more important to successfully help someone find the peace offered by Jesus, than it is to tell them your opinion that they are wrong about pre-marital sex, divorce, homosexuality, adultery and so on.
One reason I became a Christian 15 years ago was because I saw it as a sinners’ club. I have since learned that this is the mistaken view that makes me a crazy Christian, not a normal Christian. I even hold to the delusion that if Christianity were a sinners club, we would accept each other like an AA group accepts a fellow alcoholic, and there would be a huge swelling in the followers of Jesus. When I give thanks for the peace I have found in following him, I think that’s a crazy idea the world would do well by.
NOTE: If inner peace is a priority in your life, you may wish to go on your own inner peace mission.