If you talk to any of my 2.78 regular readers, you may learn that the topic of condemnation is prevalent on this blog. Oh, I might not use that specific word, but it threads its way throughout many of the themes and stories that I’ve shared over the years. And that got me to thinking……why is that? So, for several weeks that has been rumbling through the recesses of my mind, popping up here and there with epiphanies, to the point I decided I MUST write something about it TODAY.
So here I am. Welcome to the recreation of my mini-journey, at least in part. Sit back, grab your coffee, and let’s roll.
You may remember my post A Response to “A Friend in Christ” last year. This situation still slightly haunts me today, as I have no clear evidence (though plenty of speculation) as to who sent me the letter and DVD. I still have varying emotions (anger, sadness, and such) when I think of the words that exist in the letter I received. More often than not, I feel the need to write additional responses – at least mentally – throwing out my detailed thoughts about how wrong it was to send that letter to me and how it was, at best, worthless condemnation on my life. The amount of anger that is involved in my emotions at the time is directly related to how biting the words I mentally create in my response are. And really, if I’m honest with you, the more biting they become, the more justified and happy I feel. And that was my first realization.
Condemnation breeds condemnation.
The most satisfying feeling related to this situation – when I am living in my flesh at least – is when I lay down condemnation toward the person that wrote that letter. Even though, when I first received it, I believe with my whole heart Jesus taught me I was doing this and that it was a mirror of the person’s letter. That I was guilty of the same sin of condemnation towards them as they were towards me.
“But Lord,” I thought, clinging to my anger…….”they were wrong!” As if my condemnation was somehow…….okay. Righteous even.
So that got me to look around my life beyond this scenario, even to others around me, both those I know and those I know of. And it became pretty clear very quickly…..
Condemnation breeds condemnation.
Don’t believe me? Check out just a few examples:
- Fred Phillips, founder of Westboro Baptist Church, famous for the “God Hates Fags” message and for picketing numerous events including military funerals, was nearing death. SO MANY rejoiced when hearing of this news, saying he would burn in hell, that his funeral should be picketed, etc.
- Read anything online about the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and you will read a rainbow of views, across the board, many of which just spew hate – more towards the people who share their views than anything else.
- Spend more than 5 minutes on Facebook, and probably see extreme political memes such as these. And they do nothing but encourage those who are condemning, or giving the other side reason to retaliate with their own condemnation.
- Religous actions and debates in thousands of online chat rooms, Facebook feeds, or online news comments filled with hate in the name of Christ (for and against topics). Here is but one sample article and extracts of comments (more mild ones, too!). In fact, there were over 175 comments on this article alone and most were arguments between commenters.
So far I have offered examples outside of myself. But I must be real with you – I am the Queen of Condemnation. It should not be so, as I often decry the condemnation that is often directed at me for my “lifestyle”. As I stand proud, ready to fight themes like “Lordship Salvation vs Grace” and other seemingly holy interactions. And yet, the last few weeks have revealed that, alas, I am no better than those who contact me. If someone is in my face about a topic (political, religious, or otherwise) I have NO PROBLEM getting right back in their face. In fact, if I’m honest, I will say I rather enjoy it. And at some point, it even becomes a competition – who can be the best at condemning the other? Oh, we are usually VERY good and veiling our words in polite discourse, even spiritual vernacular or via holy scripture. We feel justified in our personal doctrines, the dogma we adhere to, or in the developed belief system we encircle ourselves in. But the fact remains, we are going for the kill and usually feel completely righteous in our stance, even if there are no survivors when it is all said and done.
And, to make this clear about how painful this revelation was to me……I claim in word and “deed” that my dogma, my world view, my Christian Walk, is centered in Grace. In Love.
And yet – condemnation was the root. The focus. The action. The idol. I cannot deny it any longer.
That got me to realizing a lesson I’ve learned before, I have even taught it! We humans, we Christians filled with the Holy Spirit, too often walk in our own fleshly nature and not that of God.
OUR nature says that it is right and good to act out based on the actions of those around me. You are good to me, I am good to you. You are bad to me, I am bad to you. You agree with me, we are good. You don’t agree with me, it’s okay to annihilate each other. Even in the name of God. That’s even in the SCRIPTURE!
Exodus 21:24-25 ESV, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
Leviticus 24:17-22 ESV, “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death.”
Deut. 19:21 ESV, “Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”
See? We obviously know these words so well as I have shown we function in this cycle very well in our society!
And yet…….as Jesus so lovingly reminds me almost daily and which I think I learn before stepping back into the law (flesh) and away from Grace……there is a Better way. Because, time and again, He pointed out that we TOTALLY MISUNDERSTOOD THE CONTEXT OF SCRIPTURE! If you don’t think that’s the case, then why did Jesus have to say so often “you have heard it said, but I have said” and then corrected our understanding? And so He did……..
Matthew 5:38-41 ESV, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
Jesus then ups the auntie by saying this:
Matthew 5:43-48 ESV (I often quote this…..pay attention Gina), “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
And to just be clear what I believe Jesus meant to model the “Christian World View” on, let’s review this. We should NOT base our actions on the old way (the law) as IT BREEDS CONDEMNATION. In fact, the Apostle Paul himself referred to it as such and then turned around and refers to the New Covenant brought by Jesus Christ as the ministry of righteousness.
2 Cor. 3:4-11 ESV (emphasis mine), “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.”
So the letter (old covenant), which I seem to use in my life most often as I feel justified in “fighting back” or retaliating with those I choose to fight with, is clearly a ministry. A ministry of death. A ministry of condemnation. It has “no glory at all”. And Jesus meant for it to end.
And yet, here I am.
Instead, I want to live and walk in the spirit of Matthew 5. If someone doesn’t agree with me – heck, call them my enemy – I will turn my other cheek. IT SHOULDN’T MATTER. In fact, I think Jesus was radical enough to say I SHOULD NOT RESIST THEM! Okay, you want to say I am going to hell? I don’t agree but you have that right and it is not my job to fight with you. To convince you. You have your political views? Amen. But my point is, we as humans/Americans/Christians/Name here spend far too much time condemning others. And we should stop. We should disagree, sure. We should hold our beliefs and probably even hold them to heart, but that has NO bearing on how we interact with each other. Vote for whom you vote, donate to whom you donate, but our hearts should be open and love should be our first thought. Empathy our second. Respect our third. But not condemnation. Ever.
So, to sum it up, the HEAVENLY WAY of acting has no room for condemnation. No more living in my flesh, of condemning others in the name of God or otherwise. I want to live in the Spirit, where love reigns. I will leave the rest of this summary to the Apostle Paul. Peace to you!
Romans 8:1-11 ESV, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”