Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Struggling to Find Balance Between Judgement and Truth

Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_The Prodigal SonI think I may be processing something that will be rather transformational for me, because I am already pretty deeply convicted.

I'm really wrestling with the difference between encouraging and expecting holiness and godliness from God's people.... and legalism and judgementalism.

As I think about all of it, I'm really feeling like I'm realizing some of my own judgement for the first time.

I suppose I've felt like I'm open-minded. After all, I grew up in a conservative missions community, but we were never the people that demanded that the school not allow dancing. I wasn't someone that thought you should only court, not date. My family didn't usually come down hard on any particular side of most doctrinal issues, and they were okay with alcohol in moderation. After high school I went to a conservative Bible College and met even more conservative people with even more conservative backgrounds. At times I even looked liberal. I certainly didn't agree with KJV-only people, I could hardly believe there were still people that existed in the evangelical church that believed women shouldn't wear pants and that you shouldn't see movies in the theater. And as time went on I moved further away from conservatism.

So. All in all, in comparison to most Christians I've hung out with, I tend to be more .... uhh... well, some would say open-minded. Some would say liberal. I mean geez, I voted for Obama.

I actually think it's processing ideas about marriage and sexuality that is really making me dig into these questions in a new way. I remember not so long ago when I was looking into potential hires for a missions job and helping pull out the best candidates. I pointed out to my then-boss that a few of them were divorced, knowing that a lot of missions don't allow divorcees to serve as missionaries. My boss said he had no such policy. I was sort of surprised... first to realize that he was different, and then to realize my own assumption about the checked box marked "divorced".

The organization I work for has challenged me again and again... they continue to hire and work with people that, in my background, would have brought on quite a bit of questioning about their spiritual strength because of their divorces, marriage struggles, rebellious kids (or even kids in jail), ongoing depression... you know. Those kinds of things.

And you know, I have been so humbled and convicted that all of those things are not so much signs of a faith that isn't strong enough or a lack of sanctification (how lame does that sound written out?!) so much as they are simply signs of a broken and sinful in-process person JUST LIKE ME who happens to have their brokenness marked in outward ways that everyone can see rather than inside and carefully hidden. Now I absolutely love that the organization I work avoids judging outward mistakes, and I'm realizing that it's really rare. My initial assumptions about those sorts of things shows the judgementalism in my heart... echoing the prayer of the Pharisee, "I thank God that I am not like other men"...

I'm convicted that I've ranked some things as being worse than others. I'm still wrestling with this. Sex before marriage - huge taboo in my background. Divorce.... ugly and awful.

And you know... lets just take divorce as an example. I feel torn. I am totally convicted that divorce is just one of a great many things that will still happen in the church because guess what... we're all still broken people and so guess what, we're bound to still struggle. Divorce will be one of those struggles. Thus I can't judge a divorcee point blank because they are really just like me - someone struggling to be holy and/or sometimes the victim of someone else's sin.

BUT... I still hate divorce. I still think it's a tragedy. I still want to fight for marriage. I want to teach people to fight for marriage and tell them that divorce is wrong and not God's plan for His people... because that is what I believe. I still want to fight for my own marriage.

How do you balance that with grace?

All I know is that I tend to be the older brother to the prodigal son, the pharisee to the praying tax collector, and the Martha to the Mary at Jesus' feet.

I have no quick answers, I'm just writing the thoughts I've been processing over the past few weeks. I feel a little vulnerable using divorce as an example, because it cuts so close to the heart of so many people who feel judged for their own divorces... so here I am admitting that I'm struggling to find how to think about these things. Help?


Mason said...

From one who comes from a very similar cultural/religious background and then saw what it looks like from the other side of the divorce issue - err on the side of love.

CM said...

I don't think it's wrong to realize that divorce is not a good thing. But I think that in general divorce doesn't mean that a divorcee is a bad person, just a wounded person. Most people I know that are divorced didn't want to get divorced; many tried very hard not to. Some just didn't know what else to do.

I think there's a line here that we have to be careful with. I think it's okay to know that certain things are sins (and I'm moving away from divorce here). It's okay to realize that certain actions are objectively sins. What's wrong is if we try to judge the state of a person's heart based on those actions. It's wrong if we think we are better than them in some way, as if we have any idea what the full circumstances of their lives are. We don't know what led them to do certain things.

Going back to divorce; I do think that it is something that is wrong. I think that it is something that should be fought against as much as possible. I also think that there are some people for whom divorce does become necessary. I don't think that people that get a divorce are bad people, and I think that even when it becomes necessary, divorce still causes wounds.

Kacie said...

Great thoughts and comments, and thanks.

I suppose one dillema is... if we are as accepting and loving as I now believe we are to be, knowing that we are all sinners in need of grace.... how do we then teach children to grow and to pursue holiness when the examples before the are so broken?

I think in my community growing up we were expected to be "good" because that is what we would be if we followed hard after God, because as He transforms us we will look more like Him. True?

In some ways that was great. It really did teach me to live well, I think, and to honor God in my life.

And yet... clearly I am only just now coming to see how much this taught me the assumption that those who were out of the cultural picture of "goodness" were not following God. When in reality... a great many of them are, they simply are experiencing the effects of being still human and living in a fallen world.

william and brittany said...

i feel you so much here, girl! thank you for challenging me and making me think about this.
love you!