Christians are a cranky bunch. Seriously. This is a broad generalization, I know, but we are a people group who at times is known primarily for what we are against. We corporately protest, boycott, rant against, and avoid scores of things at any given time.
I think some of this might be due to an over-correction away from the ditch of the morally squishy, “God-Is-Lovism” that refuses to take a stand on anything at all. Unfortunately, we forsook squishiness (good riddance!) and landed squarely in the opposing ditch of attempting to scold the culture into repentance (Proverbs 27:15, Romans 2:4).
How Do You Know If You’re That Guy (or Girl)?
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14, ESV).
Our first reaction to this passage is usually to say, “Oh yeah, I know THAT guy; he’s just like……” But could he be you? Even a little bit? I’m him sometimes. Are you humble enough to be suspicious of yourself and your motives? If you’re feeling brave, keep reading.
When critiquing the culture, how do you approach the other side?
- Like an enemy to be vanquished?
- With exasperation, wondering why they just don’t get it?
- Or with truth, mingled with compassion, because deep down, apart from Christ, you are just like them? (Romans 5:8, Galatians 6:1-3)
If you see yourself more in the first two questions than in the third, please go back and read the Luke 18 passage again, slowly, prayerfully, repentantly (1 John 1:9). On the other hand, if you do not identify with the first two questions at all, this may be an even greater cause for concern– perhaps your conscience has become hardened (Hebrews 3:13). Do you believe you are who the Bible says you are? (Matthew 7:3-5, 1 Timothy 1:15) The tax collector sure did. He knew he had no righteousness of his own before God, and he was the one whom God accepted. People like him are the best candidates for speaking into the problems they see around them. His is the right starting point. If you are always aware that you have nothing that wasn’t given to you (1 Corinthians 4:7), you won’t look down on people you are correcting.
An Added Bonus
When you see yourself as just one beggar telling the other beggars where to find bread, you won’t mind too much when the name calling comes your way. Your Lord promised that the world would hate you because it hated Him. If you are speaking the truth in love to unsaved people, you will be persecuted. If you remember the gospel though, you will never get defensive, because nothing said about you comes anywhere close to the truth: you are such a horrible sinner that the very Son of God had to give His life so you could be saved. How could you ever be self-righteous when this is the case?
The truth is, unless you are profoundly sanctified, you probably are self-righteous sometimes. I am, too. As I write, I’m praying for you. Will you pray for me?
God, be merciful to us sinners. Help us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Romans 12:3). We would be honored to spread Your fame in this lost world; would You condescend to use us? Grant us boldness and humility for the honor and glory of Your precious Son.