Thursday, April 12, 2012
Afterwards, I was angry. I was frustrated. I wanted to storm after this person to tell them just how wrong they were. I wanted them to feel my wrath!
I sought the advice of a trusted mentor about this situation, and we talked through some of the things I was feeling. I told her I believe strongly in social justice. I believe in equality. And I wanted to track this person down and rip them to shreds. I wanted them to be punished or humiliated or at least to feel really bad about what they were saying.
After listening patiently and affirming my desire for justice, she said something I hope I'll never forget: "If you truly believe in equality, that means even racists are equal too."
That hit me hard. It is still hitting me hard.
In light of this, over the past few days I have had strong emotional reactions to news stories of Christians doing weird things like opposing anti-bullying legislation and firing an unwed mother and leaving her without health insurance during her pregnancy. I have been incensed (and extremely disheartened) as I see other professing Christians coming to such different conclusions on these topics that seem so incredibly cut and dry to me--and in the name of Jesus! "What part of 'love your neighbor as yourself' don't you understand?" I want to say. "Is judge not lest ye be judged really such a difficult concept?" How is it that we are so often known for being condemning and judgmental?
I have literally been thinking about this all day. I can't stop thinking about it. And I am stuck between wanting to protect my brothers and sisters in Christ from one of the most common (and often unfair) criticisms lodged against us and wanting to openly apologize for Christians' behavior in general.
I called my mom yesterday to talk through some of the things on my heart, and it was then that the dots began to connect for me. Somehow, I found myself saying, "We forget that the sin we are condemning and trying to punish in others was paid for when Jesus died on the cross!" As I said it, I had no idea where those words were coming from. It was wisdom that I had certainly not possessed moments before. And I was convicted by these words--big time.
I began to think of people who annoy me. People who have hurt me. People whose sin seems too big for me to get over. People whom I have deemed unforgivable or worthy of my contempt and condemnation. What would it be like if I remembered that all of their junk, the absolute worst things about them, the terrible things they have done to me and others--have been completely punished, condemned, and fully paid for because of Jesus' death on the cross? The wrath, justice, and punishment of God has been poured out completely on those sins.
And now, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
I don't condemn others because there is no condemnation left. Jesus took it all on the cross. I don't take it on myself to punish others because there is no punishment left. Jesus took it all on the cross. I don't pass judgment on others because there is no judgement left. Jesus took it all on the cross.
And this is great news. This is the gospel!
Several years ago, I first heard the story of a woman who began ministering to gang leaders, drug dealers, violent criminals, and other convicted felons who were in prison in the name of Jesus. When asked why she chose to work with prisoners in particular, she said, "Because they make me ask myself if I really know what grace means."
She can work with men who are, by our standards, the worst of the worst--because she knows that Jesus' death on the cross paid for their sin just as much as they paid for her own. And in Christ, there is therefore now no condemnation.
And so I'm praying that this week (and every week) when I rush to judgment and condemnation (even toward those who by every standard possible deserve it) I will remember: There is none left.
And praise God for that.