In this sermon, Dan Kent examines how we respond when others judge us. He first looks at how the world teaches us to respond, and then he offers a different response that is shaped by God’s perspective.
We live in a culture where we all will be on the receiving end of judgment. This is a part of life that we cannot avoid, but we don’t often think about how we should respond to it. Dan proposes that we should respond to judgment with resilience. This resilience is neither hard-hearted toward other’s views, nor apathetic as in, “I don’t care about what people think.”The kind of resilience Dan points us to is one where we remain un-Effected but we are not un-Affected. By this, Dan means that when we get our life from Christ, our well-being is unchanged by the judgment, but at the same time we can sift through the judgments to determine where there may be a sliver of truth.
The resilience that God calls us to can be described by the word unoffendability. We are not controlled by the judgments of others while we also remain loving toward those who are judging. This is especially crucial in our world which is designed in specific ways to prompt responses of anger through judgment. Sometimes, this stirring of anger can result in action, in response to something like injustice. However, most of the time, it is simply anger aimed at developing a sense of outrage in order to develop a continuing string of offenses. One person will be offended and then they will pass on that information to others so that they too will join in on the offense. It’s called “outrage marketing.” It is manipulating people through stirring up offense.
This kind of offense is based in the myth that our enemy is other people. We become angry because we don’t agree with a cause that others are promoting and then we enlist others to be offended with us. We interpret those promoting such a cause as judging us and we judge them, thereby generating a perpetual cycle. Everyone appears to have an agenda for a cause and they are trying to loop people to join in with them. Those who are stirring our sense of being offended seek to divide and conquer, to cause us to burn for a cause where we are fighting against other people. They want us to burn with rage and indignation.
Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 24:10-12 (KJV): “And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Offendability results in cold hearts. By contrast, God wants us to burn with a different kind of fire, the kind of fire that is shaped by agape love. This is a slow burn that has the endurance to remain in love in the midst of hate. This is the kind of love that Jesus exhibited. Peter writes about this, “When they hurled insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (2 Peter 2:23).
We must ask if we have a fire that is hot enough to keep us from retaliating. Do we have a fire hot enough to keep us from hostility, even when we are suffering? Do we have a fire that burns hot enough and long enough to trust God to address the injustice? The fire of rage is not enough. This fire begins with the spark of unoffendability. It is cultivated as our hearts receive the love that God pours out. The question we face is whether our hearts are like a rock that has been fashioned by the hostility of the world or if it is one that is made soft and receptive.
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