Spiritual Bullies

Proverbs 30:12-13 (Amplified)
There is a class of people who are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their own filth. There is a class of people–oh, how lofty are their eyes and their raised eyelids!

(The Message)
Don’t imagine yourself to be quite presentable when you haven’t had a bath in weeks.
Don’t be stuck-up and think you’re better than everyone else.

When I was in college (and was still an oh so perfect Christian) I remember having this brief conversation with a man in my church who I had grown up knowing.  It was a Sunday night and as we were eating I talked about how I couldn’t believe some of the things my friends were doing away at college.  I will never forget how he gently said, I’m glad I’m not the one who has to judge them.

Although I couldn’t quite identify the funny feeling I got, I now recognize what was a kind and gentle (as well as much-needed) rebuke.  I was thinking about this brief encounter some fifteen years ago as I rode to church this morning.  See, we’ve had a busy weekend.  A birthday party and a baby shower!  Lots of fun and special memories!  And a chance to be around so many different kinds of people…different walks of life.

The truth is I’ve had something gnawing at me.  At one of these events I made a simple decision based solely on the opinion of someone sitting close by.  For me, it wasn’t a sin issue.  I know what the Bible says and I know my own heart and conscience about it.  But the decision I made was greatly influenced by the judgement, though probably never spoken aloud, it would incur.  But see, here’s the thing.  The same person who would judge me is the same person who then went on to gossip about neighbors.  And this is what has been gnawing at me.  I let myself be bullied.  I own it and it’s my fault.

I know all about Christian bullying.  I’ve been one as I shared at the beginning of this post.  I’ve been the person so pure in her own eyes and yet not seeing the filth of my judgmental heart, my gossip, and my gross spiritual pride.  I’ve been the “Godly” girl, so innocent and untried in the world, looking at those around me with raised eyelids.  Plainly put, I’ve been the self-righteous Christian who would rather judge and gossip about you than pray for and reach out to you.

So much has transpired in the years since that conversation during college.  A lot of living, really.  And in living I eventually (and thankfully) had a head-on collision with my own need for mercy and grace.  I still have so much living and learning to do.  Interestingly enough, the longer I live the more I realize I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did.  And really, anything I do know or understand or can articulate is worthless if the overwhelming theme song of my life is not love.

Love.  A sweet-smelling aroma to our God.  Love.  The thing the Bible clearly tell us to do, without measure.  Love.  The very thing God says is the identifiable factor in a Christ-follower’s life.  The trademark.  The glue.  The bait for hurting and wounded people…Love.  It’s what draws men and women to God.  He loves people.

Judgement.  A stench that so often is smelled by everyone except the judge.  See, if you’ve recognized your own filth, if you’ve thrown yourself upon the altar and experienced mercy when you deserved anything but, you learn quickly to lay aside the Pharisee life.  Matter-of-fact, I’ll even go as far as to say you begin to understand why Jesus chose to hang out with sinners over the religious elite.

“Sinners” most of the time quite honestly know they are sinners!  The religious elite, however, don’t!  It’s hard to be in fellowship with people who are so perfect and so ready to raise their eyebrows at the choices of others all the while raging pride goes unchecked in their own life.  I get it.  I’ve been on the giving as well as the receiving end.

So, this post is for anyone out there who feels bullied by the religious elite in your life.  If you feel judged, belittled and “small” in their presence, this is for you.  God didn’t call any other human to judge you.  He doesn’t call Christians to judge others and He especially doesn’t want those bearing His name to tear others down.  Jesus says Christians will be known by their love.  Sadly, lots of Christians are far more interested in passing out opinions than a helping hand.  But, that’s not God’s heart.  He is love.  Yes, God convicts our hearts of sin but He draws us gently and is always a safe place to be.

If you happen to be a spiritual bully, I get it.  Been there.  Still go there, sometimes.  But I want to encourage you to lay aside your judgement and pride.  If we find it easier and more appealing to gossip about someone rather than pray for them, then we are sorely deceived about our own spiritual depth.  Really, we could all stand to take a load off.  God not only commands us to love one another, He specifically tells us not to judge others.

So often when we have such strong reactions about others we can’t see the sin and problem in those very reactions. We think we are right.  We think they are wrong.  We think we are “better” and good for being right and they are “worse” and bad for being wrong.  We arch our brows and tsk tsk but have we even bothered to smile at them?  Have we taken two minutes to even ask their name?  To even wonder if they are hurting?  Perhaps we could reach out with love and genuine care rather than react and recoil in our pristine Christian bubble.   After all, it’s what our reaction is saying about our own heart that screams the loudest.

Whatever behaviors or choices we see in the lives of others, whether blatant sin or a matter of our own personal opinion, we would all do well to remember Jesus loves those people we are judging.  Jesus died for them.  He died.  Jesus is the only One with the right to condemn…yet when we trust in His name and receive His grace Jesus chooses to embrace us.  He never bullies us, He just loves us and invites us to know Him.  Jesus is always for reconciliation, not condemnation.

It’s true.  I’m a little sore with myself for coughing up my lunch money this weekend, but I know I’ll get another chance.  And I’ll be ready with a brave heart and a big smile.

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