Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You Be The Judge

"America has voted!" This, Nick Cannon's famous line, precedes the announcement of who stays and who goes on America's Got Talent.  In recent years, the idea of letting America be the judge has become common place. From American Idol, to AGT, to The Voice, shows like this put viewers in the drivers seat.  "We the people," hold in our hands the power to judge the talent of performers.  We have the power to judge who is good enough to stay and who deserves to go home.  Never mind if we ourselves can't carry a tune in a bucket or have little to no recognizable talent, we have the power to judge whether or not someone else has talent.

I'm not sure what the fascination is with shows like this, but I'm thinking it's less about being entertained and more about being empowered to pass judgement on others.  After all, who doesn't like being elevated into a position where we have say so.  I mean, this is America.  We were built on the idea of being an empowered people.  A concept I happen to really appreciate. And I know, with the decision to audition for a show such as these, one is willingly submitting themselves to being judged by those who view the shows. Still, I can't help but think that in our culture today, we are being conditioned to sit in a seat we were never meant to sit in.

As I observed my two boys the other day while watching one of these programs, I noticed I had two young "experts" in my household.  My 8 year old in his animated voice will proclaim, "they are HORRIBLE," when in his opinion someone needs to be voted off.  My 11 year old on the other hand will often walk in from the other room, needing only a few seconds to form his opinion and proclaim his judgment in very matter of fact way.  It's all fun and games right?  Or, is there something more here that we should be concerned about?

I want my children to have great reasoning skills and critical thinking skills.  I want them to be able to rightly judge right and wrong, truth and deception. I want them to think for themselves and have personal opinions.  What I don't want is for them to grow up thinking that their opinion is the standard for defining others.  I don't want them judging others from an elevated position of pride. I don't want them judging others with even a hint of condemnation.  From what I see in Scripture that behavior is completely inconsistent with the nature of Jesus and really unacceptable for followers of Christ.

John 3:16 is a pretty popular verse that churched people know well.  But it would seem many do not know the following verse.  Here, we are told that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, yet, for some reason many followers of Christ are very comfortable doing just that.  Oh, we don't call it that but that's exactly what we do when we are quick to pass judgement on others based on a sound byte, reading an edited statement often taken out of context, or hearing through the grapevine what someone has said or done.  Why is that?  What in us compels us to think this behavior is becoming of a believer? Why do we think it is so imperative to jump on social media and proclaim to our couple hundred friends that this person is an idiot, that person is a heathen, that person is a heretic, and that person is either the anti-christ or his brother.  What in us drives that need to jump in the seat of the judge and pass judgement on others many of whom we have never met? Why do we so desperately feel the need to stand on our personally erected soap box and expose to the world the faults, failures, and sins of others. I mean, when Adam and Eve sinned, God chose to be merciful and "covered" them.  Hmm.... what a stark contrast!!!

Think for a moment just how backwards this behavior is for followers of Christ.  Jesus, the Creator of the Universe, the only One worthy to cast the first stone, refused to do so.  That idea of "casting the first stone," came from an instance where Jesus refused to condemn a woman everyone else was ready to condemn to death.  Instead, Jesus chose mercy.  No, He didn't ignore her sin.  He didn't pretend she was innocent and He didn't simply sweep her sin under the rug.  He hated her sin as He does all sin.  But, Jesus didn't come to condemn her.  His purpose was to rescue her.  His purpose was to help her and to restore her. The religious leaders of the day were the ones who made the decision to expose her sin to the rest of the community.  It was the religious leaders who got it wrong that day.  Jesus chose to cover her with mercy and grace.

Mercy, what a concept!  No, it's not signing off on sin or granting others a license to sin, it's just offering them a safe haven when they do sin.  It's offering them a hand up when they fail.  It's offering them a second and third and forth and fifth chance. It's allowing them to blow it big time without pointing a finger in judgment or condemning them in the aftermath of their failure.

Let's face it, we are all in this same "sin" boat together.  Is it not insane to walk around comparing our sin with that of others?  I mean, pardon my frankness but that's as ridiculous as comparing the stink of our poo with that of others. Come on, isn't the measure of the stink irrelevant?  It's all poo! I don't know about you, but when I look in the mirror I see a man with issues.  A man far from perfect.  A man who will miss the mark at some point today.  Maybe, within the next hour or half hour.  Geez, I may blow it before I've completed writing down my thoughts here.  If I were to cast the first stone, I would need to make sure I was the target.  Concerning myself with my own challenges is hard enough without me worrying about others and how messed up they are. Jesus instructed us to quit worrying about the speck in other's eyes and to concern ourselves with the log in our own eyes.  The idea He's trying to get across is that if we'll take care to judge ourselves, we won't have time to sit in judgment of others.

There is a Judge, and I know for a fact, He looks nothing like me.  If you're comfortable trying to sit in His seat, go for it.  All I know is there is a story in Scripture of another who tried to sit in His seat and things did not turn out too good for him.  So, if you're confident enough to try to hop up in His seat, go ahead, you be the judge.  As for me, I'll stay away from attempting that. 

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