Be Not a Jerk
AUGUST 9, 2022
I’m not very good.
I don’t mind being honest about my failures. I’m probably too honest at times. But you know what keeps me from being more honest than I am? It’s not because I’m scared of losing my witness. It’s not because I’m afraid of seeming like a failure. It’s because some people in the church are so darn judgmental. Way more judgmental than the world.
You may sit up straight in your chair, flatten out your lips and argue that’s because the world doesn’t care about sin, but the church is all about that stuff. But part of the problem is we think we’re somehow better than the world because we talk about sin a lot. Being cognizant of sin doesn’t make one better than those who may not think something is a sin. Knowledge doesn’t equal goodness.
Well, I try not to sin, you may say. Okay. You resist cheating? So does my atheist neighbor. You despise greed? The transgender lady at the supermarket does too. I know agnostics against abortion, Muslims against lying, Buddhists against drugs. -Shrugs- You still think your morality sets you apart from nonbelievers?
All that said, sin should be talked about. It shouldn’t be ignored. If I’m stuck in a cycle of sin, someone I love should lovingly point it out. Or when I say something completely off the mark, a friend should kindly point out why I might be wrong. I don’t mind criticism when it’s constructive. (Well, I actually hate it, but it’s still necessary and important.) But you or I aren’t better because we read a holy book. We get better because we experience the fact that Christ died for us and we accepted that sacrifice. So, it’s annoying to me when we Christians are arrogant about sin. It’s even worse when we’re nit-picky about things we just don’t like.
We’re real bad about giving side-eye for the slightest moral failing. But, even worse is the judgment we give for doing things that aren’t sinful, but simply unacceptable behavior to us personally.
Why, oh, why?!
I believe we’re so judgmental because (as I said above) we think morality’s what sets us apart as Christians. Some of us think, dare I say, it’s what makes us Christians. We wrongly believe that we follow Christ because he’s perfect and we should be as morally dutiful as him. Is there truth in that? Sure. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:48). But proof-texts are often what makes it so difficult to pull a sticky lie apart from the truth. Because if morality is the key to Salvation, there are well-behaved dogs getting into heaven before you and I.
God Himself stepped out of heaven into the womb of a teenage girl to be born into His Creation, to be a ransom for a lost and dying world. Without faith in Jesus, and his sacrifice in our place, we’re lost. We will become more like our perfect Savior because we are being made into the image of God daily by the Holy Spirit. But all the good works in the world won’t save us. Only Jesus does that.
That gives us room to be honest about our failings. (Well, it should.) It should also give us room not to be so darn judgmental about other’s sins. But, instead, to have the willingness to walk alongside someone who is struggling, even with things we don’t understand. Even with things that make us uncomfortable. Even with the scandalous, the fearful, and the shameful. Because they are God’s, like you are God’s. Also, your sin, which might be so socially acceptable you miss it, might truly be an iceberg compared to their icicle. (Arrogance often blinds us to our deepest faults.) There aren’t any kings in the Christian faith. No one who leads the pack of morality. Just the walking wounded, carrying each other.
So, no. You don’t have to be me. You can be you. That seems simple enough, but someone will take it from you if you let them. We can be neurotic about our personal opinions. We can idolize them to the point that if someone else doesn’t agree with us, that person is evil to us. We can’t grasp the idea that our opinions, even if they’re true, aren’t necessarily the only way of seeing things. Even if they’re more efficient, well-thought out and time-tested, it doesn’t mean we’re allowed to despise others for going about things differently. Truth may be a narrow road, but whether you’re barefoot, wearing boots or riding a bicycle down it doesn’t generally matter.
What may be the obviously better way of doing things for you actually might not work as well for someone else because of their situation, personality or temperament. In short: be humble, be accepting, and be not a jerk.