"It is easy to be repelled by false "mortification of the flesh" where people shout against sin and have in their hearts nothing but hardness and uncharity, and really are so busy hating sin that they have no time to love God."
~ Thomas Merton, Run to The Mountain, p. 71
When I read this passage from Thomas Merton's book, Run to the Mountain (his first journal), I couldn't help but think of how his reflections are just as appropriate for the time period we find ourselves in now as they undoubtedly were for the time period Merton found himself in when he wrote it. Perhaps within humanity we all come equipped with a built-in "pharisee gene". It does seem like people regardless of the time period they are dropped in, and Christians certainly come into this category, never tire of judging others.
Whether it is homosexuality, premarital sex, being guilty of illegal offenses, involved in drugs, or any of the other sins that we think do not contain us in their snares, there are vices and pitfalls aplenty to raise our voices against in today's society. But what good does it do towards the advancement of God's kingdom? How does raising our voices against sin continually build the body of Christ up and add to its numbers? In the process of doing so, do we become blind to the notion of reflecting the love and light of Christ?
I could see in a way how it would build the body up-for when there is something to fight against people find themselves energized and motivated to get organized, to pursue injustice and the wrongs of this world with zeal and great gusto. And sometimes that isn't always a bad thing, sometimes that can be very good, it all has to do with what one is motivated against. Right now I'm talking about the moral and legal infractions of those in society that modern Christians speak out so much against. How does this add to its numbers? I would say the judgemental tone of intolerance that is so prevelant today and getting so much attention from a certain subset of Christians actually turns people off from running towards Christ...for if the very people who are critical, judgemental and damning are supposed to reflect the very nature of Christ...I don't know if that would spur me to run to His throne either!
If Jesus was able to hang out and eat with sinners, so can I! All of us can...and have a witnessing influence to those who don't yet know the love of God.
Some verses to ponder when reflecting on this topic:
Proverbs 10: 12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
1 Peter 4:8 8Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
1 John 4:7-8 7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Titus 3:2 To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all people.
Back to refecting on Merton's quote. I would say instead of judging others, loving God does far more to oppose the darkness of the world than hurtful words flung at already wounded souls. To love God, and realize His reality surrounds us and permeates this world and that even those who we might resist being tender towards were created by the same God who we love, has a way of changing one's attitude and one's heart. Loving God cannot but transform one's heart. And if we are continually being transformed to kinder, gentler, more compassionate people that is going to make a far more difference than angry and bitter words.
The Bible makes it clear that God seeks humble hearts. And a humble heart isn't a judging heart because a humble heart has a sense of introspection that, like a mirror, reveals to the saintly sinner their own vices, their own downfalls, their own failures and their own desperate need for God. We are no more worthy of God than those we judge!
Mother Teresa once said:
We are all capable of good and evil. We are not born bad: everybody has something good inside. Some hide it, some neglect it, but it is there.
Perhaps it would be a wise thing to start looking at the qualities that we have in common with others and not just the differences. Perhaps finding the commonalities would serve as a bridge to understanding and an opportunity towards sharing the message of God's grace and love.
There is a time for anger and a time for action. But I just think, and this is my opinon, it is a blog after all, that a lot of our efforts as Christians against issues are against the wrong kinds of issues. Let's get angry about the child who is watching helplessly as her mother dies today in some small town in Africa, not knowing what tomorrow will bring because there is nobody else to take care of her. Let's get angry about all the countless people dying because their water is contaiminated. Let's get motivated and spurred on by compassion for this world and feel conviction towards letting the compassion of Christ permeate it! Let's drown this world in the light and love of Christ! Ok..maybe "drown" isn't the best word, but I feel my readers know what I mean! ;)
So my unscholarly, unprofessional opinion is this: Let's open our hearts towards God. Let's recieve His spirit within Him. Let's feast upon His words and let them dwell richly within and then take our love, our knowledge and compassion and bring it to a world of suffering, a world of darkness, a world that truly needs it. Let's be a lamp shining in the darkness and let our light bring hope to the hopeless.
~Peace and blessings.