Jesus commanded His followers to love, and He commanded us not to judge. Yet the Christians of today are known outside of the Church as arrogant, judgmental, and intolerant. What is wrong with this picture?! In this message, Greg shares three ideas on how we, who say we follow Jesus, can truly become the humble, serving, loving people that the Church is supposed to be.
Greg was once approached by a very angry man who questioned Greg on “what spirit he was of”. Greg replied to him, “You’d kill me right now if you could, wouldn’t you?”, and the man didn’t deny it! He just kept staring angrily at Greg. This is how people respond when they’re challenged but still have an idol that they need to hold on to. It’s certainly not the loving response that Jesus asked us to have toward people…
Groups often form around these kinds of convictions, and they in turn reinforce each other’s idols because they grow to believe even more firmly that they are the right and righteous ones. The people in these groups get life from their beliefs, and from defending their convictions. In fact, if you look at the major conflicts in the world, you will find that it is precisely this that is going on behind the scenes. Clinging to idols, even if they’re well-intentioned beliefs, creates a strong “us versus them” mindset, which is not the mind of Christ.
The more strongly you hold on to convictions and try to get life from them, the more likely you will try to “squash” those who believe differently than you. And sadly, a lot of Christians get caught up in this “us/them” mindset. Christians get defensive, angry, even violent sometimes. And what makes it worse is that most Christians think that their conviction is God’s Truth, so they believe they have moral superiority over others, and therefore think they are always right – even as they try to impose their convictions on others who don’t agree with them. That is why the Christians of today are seen as arrogant, judgmental, and intolerant. Why would people who are outside the Church want to come to the Church for anything?
But how do we change our ways? How can we become the people who Christ set us free to be?
1) Jesus’ death abolishes all “us/them” thinking! Paul said, “Christ’s love compels us, for we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded even Christ this way, we don’t do so any longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold all things have been made new.” Every obstacle that separated people from God has been removed by the death and resurrection of Christ, and therefore we are no longer to see people as the world see’s people. We are to see them through the “lens” of the cross. We are to see a person whom God loves, whom He died for, whom he has made new. There is no “us/them” thinking in the cross. There is one new humanity in Christ Jesus – no male or female, no Jew or Gentile, no slave or free… There is no place for us to think that we are the righteous ones.
2) We’re clearly told that we’re to cultivate the mind of Christ! “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his advantage. Rather, he made himself nothing… and became obedient to death, even death on the cross.” This is the mindset we are to have: not clinging to righteousness, but emptying ourselves and becoming servants of humanity – even of our enemies. If God was willing to humble himself so much that he gave up his Godly authority and emptied himself, even dying in service to all humans, is it really too much for us to give up being prideful humans in order to become humble humans? If we really had the mind of Christ, there would be no way we would ever believe that we were better than someone else.
3) Christ abolishes all judgment! Our minds instinctively assess others. We tend to think it’s a little thing, but reserving the right to assess good and evil is the foundational sin of the Bible! It’s the foundational sin because it subverts the one thing which we were put here to do, and that is to love one another! Loving someone is simply ascribing unconditional worth to them at cost to ourselves – and we cannot do that when our minds are pointing out to us what’s wrong with them! But we are to “put on the mind of Christ”, which, on the cross of Calvary, revealed to us how far God is willing to go to ascribe worth to every person, and at what cost to Himself. How, then, can we say we follow Jesus while we stand in judgment of someone – devaluing them while ascribing worth to ourselves?!
We were told to “imitate Christ”, not just to believe that Jesus is our ticket to heaven after we die (as if that somehow makes us better than others anyway…). “Live in love, as Christ loved us and gave his life for us as an offering and a sacrifice…” We are commanded not to judge, and we are commanded to love. Jesus hinted at one way to learn how to do this in Matthew 7, when he said, “Don’t judge, or you’re going to be judged! Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Jesus is basically telling us to see our own sin as about a trillion times worse than the sins of others. This intentional shift in our thinking can help us to change our mindset – rather than maximizing the sins of others and minimizing our own, we learn to minimize the sins of others and maximize our own. This change in perspective helps us to actually become humble people as we learn to love others – no longer judging them, but instead ascribing unsurpassable worth to them.
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