Reading Time: 10 minutes(malice, criticism, and judgment)
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3)
This week, we will start out with a question. Many will not like this question; but some may very well take it to heart, and ask Jesus to help them with this question. The question likely goes something like this:
“Do you know anyone who fits the basic ideas of our opening text? Do you know anyone who is
“…foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various selfish desires, lusts, and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another?”
Now doesn’t that just sound like so and so that you see in Church every weekend? So now I likely have your attention, but the real question is a bit different. “Why aren’t any of those fingers pointing at yourself?” Why is your name not on THAT list?
Now to explore this question, we can begin where we left off a week or so ago when we covered some pertinent points in a topic called A Little Wash In The Jordan.
There, we discussed another question that I had asked two different people. That question was about “what is the first thing someone said to you in your church after you joined, and how long did it take for that to happen?”
Now the one person who answered gave a very positive, uplifting answer, the other person, not so much. They had some very bad experiences in their church. To recap, lets review that person’s answer:
“Person 1 – Answer/Person 1: I don’t think anyone ever said something meaningful. They mostly said things that made me cry. Other than maybe my Mom. She told me not to believe everything that someone tells me regarding anything Biblical. She always told me to read the Bible for myself, to test whatever they say to me so that I could know for sure if it is the truth, and the answers I need.
“All they ever said to me at Church was that ‘I will pray for you.’ And that if my life wasnt going good, then its because I don’t attend church enough, and that I ‘don’t have enough faith.’ Just so much about Sabbath and all the rules! And my 10% offerings. Seems like that’s the only thing I ever did that made them smile.”
Now this person happens to be a beautiful Christian who has helped and supported me during a time of terrible struggle I was going through. None of the church members this person was talking about cared enough to say a word to me for many months, and this person, against whom that church had been so embittered was the only one to take any interest in me, and pray and study with me to encourage and lift me up to The Saviour.
I have personally seen this same church conduct great flowing sermons about who are the Pharisees in church today? Or sometimes they do what they call a “revival” which brought not even one person into the church, And other similar things about “the beast” or some “apostasy” always kept creeping into their messages and sermons until the last “new person” was driven away by the cold, self-centred Churchianity that was pressed upon everyone who came into the door.
How could this friend be such a kind supporting individual to me if even half of what that church said at the time was true? Is there something that that church was/is missing? If what the church keeps saying about “erring” individuals in their midst is true, then that church will always be a shrinking Church. Many of the people they have routed out of the congregation were the victims of Malice, Criticism, and Condemnation, while the targets of their latest campaign seem most like the true Christians.
Now, this same person who gave the not so positive opinion of the church they were attending, told me the following true story, with tears in their eyes. It was a story worth repeating now:
My friend’s Dad was dying of cancer. They very much wanted to give their Dad something, but really struggled through tears to decide what might be a good idea for this sad time. They went down to the hospitals little gift shop, and spotted something that they knew their Dad would really be blessed by. My friend described it like this:
“I took the Prayer Stone, (a pair of hands folded in prayer, and embedded in a stone), and went up to his bed. I placed the prayer stone in his hand, and I prayed with my Dad, for The Holy Spirit to be present…”
None of the leaders at my friend’s church with their malice and criticism would ever have a way of knowing about such people and how Jesus is working in their lives, because of their opinionated malice of decided condemnation.
I felt very privileged to be able to just listen to my friend’s many touching stories about Christ in their life, and yet, the Church of Malice, Criticism, and Condemnation, had essentially thrown this person out much like we would throw out a bag of garbage.
My friend had questions about some of our doctrines and the way we do things in church, and thats all those leaders in my friend’s church needed to shun, condemn, or criticize my friend with. Especially do they like to use what they call “The Mathew 18 Method,” and it is always anything but.
Jesus said we will know them by their fruit, but there’s a lot of vegetables growing in some church gardens. My friend’s last prayer with their dying father is very significant and touching for another reason. Their Dad had horribly abused and beaten my friend’s Mom, and sometimes in front of my friend, and my friend was horribly treated by their Dad at times as well. And yet, there was the child who had witnessed and received abuses so horrible I cant say them on the internet, standing at Dad’s bedside, crying and praying for The Holy Spirit to be present. I wonder, how many of us could forgive and pray like that?
So. Who is the real Christian? The one bearing the fruit.
The point of this story is that the way the church typically, (not always) treats people who are different, people who do not believe everything just right, are just as much Christians as we church people are. It really is that simple. There should be no such thing as people not welcome at Church, and the first thing one will see in a church that is guilty of this is a shrinking church. A Church that hasn’t grown in years.
A Church that, will sometimes say “Hi” to a visitor when they walk in the door, but then turn away just seconds later to chat with “one of them” with one of the “members in good standing” about the Pharisees in our midst, or maybe about what sin they want to address next in the church.
But they have addressed so many “sins” now that there are hardly any members left! None of the members that church gained a couple years or so ago have stayed with that church. They are all gone now. Every one of them. To try to blame something like that on the victims of their so called “ministry to the erring” is nothing short of a lie.
When members are driven away from church by cold calculating leaders bewitched by the demonic chastening of “erring members” they do become offended, and likewise, the ones doing all that “correcting” act like religious baby-sitters rather than true leaders under the Servant-hood Model of our Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to what the Bible says about people who are offended:
“A [person] offended is more formidable than a strong [city]; such strife is like the bars of a fortress. (Prov 18:19 Tanakh)
The LXX renders this verse as “a brother helped by a brother is a strong and high city, and is as strong as a well-founded palace.” It is very difficult to determine exactly which of the two readings is most correct But perhaps everyone can agree at least, that both readings would indeed make a very significant observation that could be very relevant for people today.
No one is going to do well with offended feelings taking over the wheel. But you know, sometimes when I have looked at the news or magazine headlines, I have thought that
“hey, some of this stuff seems very familiar to me. Where have I heard this before?”
And then it hit me.
“Yes! I heard something like that at church!”
Today’s news is eerily similar to what we see and hear in our churches today. “But how can this be so?” I hear many people say. “I thought the church was Christian and would never talk like this?” And I am sure that some of you are wondering now, “well, talk like what?”
All of the slander, the libel, the stealing, the adultery, the bearing of false witness, the turning of churches into a veritable market place. The immorality, the love of money. Its all there. At Church. Why many times, there is no difference between the holy and the unholy.” (Ezekiel 22:26). And it is this very point that seems to kindle God’s anger the quickest.
The fact that THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE.
Specifically, there is one more thing I would like to discuss for this article and that is, how do we, in the church today, sound the most like modern Big Media, when it comes to “malice” and “reproof,” and “disagreement?” And we have to concede that there is a lot of that in “the news.”
Jesus said once, in regards to judging, “don’t do it!” It really is that simple! (see Mat 7:1). Now it may surprise some to know that the average Christian is a very obnoxiously critical individual.
They seem to view themselves as preeminent, over their fellow human beings who do not ascribe to their beliefs, or who do not practice said beliefs or customs quite “right.” Severe criticism seems to be a part of how all people are wired; but in the spiritual domain, nothing pleasant is ever accomplished by criticism, is it? Especially in a church!
Now, Jesus did specify that we need to “judge righteous judgment” (Deut 25:1,John 7:24), and all this means is that Jesus is asking us to decide for ourselves, based on scripture, what is right or what is wrong but never are we to enter into the domain of telling anyone that they are not right with God for it is God alone who can know what is in the heart. (Psalms 139:23, Jer 17:9-10, Psalms 44:21, Heb 4:12, John 2:25).
The biggest effect of criticism is that it first divides up the ability and capacity of both the person being criticized, and the person doing the criticizing. Does that sound like something we can afford to do this day and age at church? Have you ever offended someone, and then tried to “get through” to them, before they have had a chance to settle down some?
“In nothing be anxious” (Philippians 4:6).
No anxiety, worry, or malice ought to be found in a believer. Great, many and varied may be our trials, our afflictions, our difficulties, and yet there should be no anxiety or judgment under any circumstances, because we have a Father in Heaven who is Almighty, who loves His children as He loves His only-begotten Son, who accepts us just as we are,and whose very joy and delight it is to support and help them at all times and under all circumstances:
We should attend to the Word, “In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
“In everything,” that is not merely when the house is on fire, not merely when the beloved wife and children are on the brink of the grave, but in the smallest matters of life, bring everything before God, the little things, the very little things, what the world calls trifling things– everything– living in holy communion with our Heavenly Father, and with our precious Lord Jesus all day long.
And when we awake at night, by a kind of spiritual instinct again turning to Him, and speaking to Him, bringing our various little matters before Him in the sleepless night, the difficulties in connection with the family, our trade, our profession. Whatever tries us in any way, speak to the Lord about it. By prayer and supplication,” taking the place of beggars, prodigals, or erring ones, with earnestness, with perseverance, going on and waiting, waiting, waiting on God. (Isa 40:31)
“With thanksgiving.” We should at all times lay a good foundation with much gratitude. If everything else were wanting, this is always present, that He has saved us from hell. Then, that He has given us His Holy Word– His Son, His choicest gift– and the Holy Spirit. Therefore we have abundant reason for thanksgiving. O let us aim at this!
“And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
And this is so great a blessing, so real a blessing, so precious a blessing, that it must be known experimentally to be entered into, for it passeth understanding. O let us lay these things to heart, and the result will be, if we habitually walk in this spirit, we shall far more abundantly glorify God, than as yet we have done. — George Mueller, in Life of Trust
I read something on Facebook that really says what I want to say in summary and it says it better than I ever could. Its a short piece called “Welcome To Church.” I noticed in my friend’s church mentioned above, they would welcome people alright, but it only took them 30 seconds or so to turn away from the person they just greeted and never speak to them again till it was time to go home:
The pastor says they sit front and centre. The gay boys. Sometimes they hold hands. And some folks have said he should address the issue. But the pastor tells me he doesn’t know what to say. And then there’s the man who sneaks in the back door. Fresh off the street. After the service starts. And leaves before alter call.
The people sitting close complain about how bad he smells. Of beer and smoke and sweat. But the pastor tells me he doesn’t know what to say. And then there’s the young mama who wears dirty skin and lets her four children come in and eat all the donuts and drink all the watered-down juice. Some church staff say they “…eat like little pigs. Like they haven’t eaten in weeks.”
While the mama just stands there and lets them. And the elders say something must be done and said. But the pastor tells me he doesn’t know what to say. And there’s the whore sitting among the faithful. And everybody knows her. She sits with a painted-up face, cheap perfume, and a broken heart. And those who sit close, well, they all treat her for what they think she is. And at the last staff meeting, her name came up.
Something must be done about her. But the pastor tells me he doesn’t know what to say.The pastor is a good man. Holy and just. And he wants to do the “right and loving” thing. And he wants to “look like Jesus”. And he asks me if I have any thoughts on anything he could say.Yes, sweet Pastor. I do.Start with this and say it Louder than any other words:
“Welcome to Church.”
This is a place of love and hope and safety and forgiveness. We will be food for the hungry. Living water for the thirsty. We are so glad you are here. You are invited. You are loved. Come on in—we’ve been waiting on you. Welcome here. We are the church.”Say that. To the called and to the called-out. To the leaders and the greeters. To the dirty and the clean.
We are all the same. We are. May we blow the dust of religion out of our souls and choose affection instead. May our words and actions and reactions be a sanctuary for all. Jesus broke many laws to love. So, Jesus, be our voice. Be the only words we should ever speak.
(Written by Heather Burke Cody – on Facebook, Oct 13th, 2001).
“Welcome To Church” is the real “LOUD CRY,” (see Rev 14:6), but in some churches, this message will never happen.
In the next email we will talk about that Loud Cry and how it is the best news ever! It truly is “the good news.”