Making Jesus Facepalm
Please read this article before continuing. http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/6-bad-habits-christians-should-drop
Well, I figured it was time that I write another reaction article to a piece someone shared on Facebook. Now this certainly isn’t a unique post, an article like this one comes across my feed almost daily where people share an article that doesn’t deserve any attention and usually they deal with how Christians bully other people. Granted, some Christians could use a lesson in grace, and some could use a lesson in tact. In the article authored by Stephen Mattson titled, “6 Bad Habits Christians Should Drop” he gives a rather brief list of things he deems harmful to Christianity. Now, before I begin, on some level, he isn’t wrong, but his broad sweeping generalizations need some narrowing and clarifying. By being so brief in his reasoning, he leaves much open to interpretation, too much. So without further ado, let’s get started.
- Being Judgmental
This is one that made me physically cringe. When an argument is made based on the definition of the word, it is likely prudent to give a definition and some examples. This doesn’t happen. He merely references the word writes two sentences and moves on. What exactly is Jesus referring to in Matthew 7 when he references judgment? Did Jesus not judge? Well let’s take a look shall we? We see Jesus judge the Pharisees in Matthew 23, he judges the woman at the well in John 4, and he judges everyone at the temple in Matthew 21:13 accusing them of turning the temple into a, “den of robbers.” So obviously, judgment in every context is not condemned, especially if our goal is to be more like Jesus. Judgment here is referencing judgment in terms of self-righteous judgment. In Judaism, works are enough to reconcile one to God. In ancient Judaism then, judgment of those with disease, disability, or any other ailment or sin was a different thing than it is today. Christians call out sin with the hope that those who hear it repent (you know, like Jesus did). When Christians do this, it is an act of love, only a person more concerned with how they are seen is going to withhold truth that could save a person from a very scary future. So are we called to go out and point out every sin we see, of course not. Matthew 7 calls us to examine ourselves first, then after having done this, we are to look to those around us and lovingly help where we can. Silence to sin is a sin in and of itself, just be sure you’ve looked in the mirror and dealt with yourself first.
- Predicting the Future
Ok, this one is annoying. No one can predict how things are going to occur. Making predictions of antichrists, the return of Christ and so on are frivolous endeavors that more times than not do more damage than good. At the same time, stating that we are moving closer to the culmination of all things isn’t a prediction, it’s a foregone conclusion.
- Overcomplicating the Love of Jesus
Again, this is a sweeping generalization. He rightly points out that at times, we are a little too focused on our “pet” projects or causes. What is interesting is that in stating this, he advocates for his own pet project. For him theology, social justice, and politics are becoming more of a priority than Jesus’ words to love people. Here is what is interesting, loving people is not our primary goal. When giving the greatest commandments he first lists loving God as our primary objective, and then points us to loving people. Part of loving God, as Psalm 119 states, is loving his word. When we allow loving people to be our first priority we generally end up violating scripture which shows contempt for God’s self-revelation and therefore God Himself. Many of mainline Protestantism have fallen into this trap, forgetting that their primary goal is to love God. If we would really like to know what our command from Christ as to what we are meant to do here, then we really need to look at Matthew 28 where Jesus gives His church the great commission. Evangelism, baptism, and discipleship are what we should be dedicating our lives to, loving people is part of that, but it is not an end all be all.
- Posting Garbage on Social Media
Out of all of the stuff here, this is an area that I will admit I have an issue with. There have been times that I have written things and the second that they are posted, I instantly regret it. There are times when I post things that I think are fine, but get a stern reminder from my wife. Mattson gives some pointers in this by suggesting that we ask questions regarding whether the post is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind. With exception to the last one I think this is pretty accurate. The reality of it is, Jesus was not always kind. Perhaps a better word to put there is, “loving”. Jesus was loving in His rebuke to the Pharisees. Some even responded to what he was saying following him and later coming to faith in Him after His resurrection. Look at texts like Matthew 23 less as Jesus beating on religious people and more as an impassioned plea that they put an end to their pride and submit to Him. With this said, as guilty as I am of doing this at times…there are others that make me look quite innocent. People who are Christian generally cannot seem to keep themselves from posting some political or completely inappropriate pictures and memes that sully the name of Christ (I am looking at you Christian posting confederate flags because you are “free” to do so). You are charged with representation of the gospel first a foremost, everything else comes behind this, EVERYTHING. Every political notion, every action, every “freedom” is subject to the cross, period. So the next time you think of posting some drivel that could make fellow believers of a different race cringe in pain over a past of oppression and pain, think twice. We are called to love one another, nothing about a piece of cloth is more important than people. If you’re viewing, displaying, or glamorizing a symbol that causes your brothers and sisters in the faith pain, than it is time that you stop, ask them for their forgiveness and continue to press into Christ. I could continue here, but I think most here will get what I am saying.
- Being Hypocritical
Really? Mattson himself must walk on water, because I have never met a human being that does not struggle with this in some form. Being hypocritical is a default for all of humanity, none of us is perfect, and all of us try to hold ourselves and others to a standard. The only way you stop being a hypocrite is when you stop believing in ethical norms. Since Christianity and the worldview therein requires that we have an ethical understanding of human relationships it is impossible for us not to be hypocrites (including Mattson himself). Now, this isn’t an excuse, we need to be better. But writing these two words and then writing two sentences isn’t sufficient to flush this out in a faithful way.
- Being Closed-Minded
Actually this is one where Mattson and I are in direct opposition. In fact, I think Scripture calls us to a closed mind when it tells us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), discern truth (Philippians 1:9-10), and lastly have a renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2). All of these we are called to so that we may attain the mind of Christ and so live like Him. This calls us to looking at our world through the biblical text. We must recognize then that experience is not the trump card to knowledge, nor is it the determining factor in how we should act, and understand the world. It is for this reason, that we keep our minds on the things of God, encouraging one another to holiness and love. Scripture speaks to human experience anyway, one thousand plus years of it. If another person’s experience or even yours contradicts scripture, it is not scripture that is wrong, but your understanding of your experience. We are not called to some sense of an open mind, but are called to protect ourselves from worldliness using a discerning spirit. We can love people without considering their point of view, we can care for people without having to accept their view of truth.
This article is just an example of the kind of nonsense people are reading and then believing. Christians are far from perfect (which you know if you’ve read this site for very long), but if we are to be called to the floor, it should be done in a responsible intelligent way. Mattson’s article is none of this. In fact, in many ways calling out Christians on the above topics as he did also calls out Jesus, which in my mind is unwise. Perhaps my largest gripe with this article however is how absent the Scriptures are from it. Not one time does Mattson quote or mention the Bible when defending his points. If you are reading an article and see this characteristic, ignore everything in that article and move on to something more edifying. The absence of Scripture is generally a good cue that what was said in not textually accurate. Peace and blessings, and as always thank you for reading.
With Love in Christ
Justin (AKA The Nerdy Theologian)
The author himself is casting blanket judgment on Christians. And, yes, I am judging his article. And we all judge. But Matthew 7:1 isn’t talking about declaring someone to be wrong, anyway (but Heaven forbid we should bother with grammar or context).