From time to time I hear complaints about the content or tone of some of our articles here at the Christian Watershed. It’s true that we’ve been known to write with passion and a strong sense of “righteous indignation” (and, to be fair, even unrighteous indignation). It is also true that we regularly critique popular evangelical Christian beliefs and practices. Sometimes we openly question mainstream denominations like the SBC (for a recent example of this please refer to Joel’s article on homosexuality). One of the complaints leveled against us has been that writing against other Christian groups is inappropriate and unloving. The impetus behind this complaint is the notion that a believer should never criticize the beliefs or practices of other Christians in public. One reader actually suggested to me that it is sinful to publicly shame another believer-which is, I suppose, what some people perceive we are doing when we engage in such diatribes.
I think the people who have shared such complaints mean well. Furthermore, I’m positive we have written with sinful motives and made brash uncaring comments in the past–and I’m certain we’ll make such mistakes in the future. Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder if these critiques, which sound very pious and humble, well . . . actually are? What if the kind folks raising these concerns about our writing are in fact unwittingly espousing our societies confused notion of tolerance and political correctness? In our culture, it is commonly perceived that to question someone – i.e. to assert that their ideas are flawed or their behavior is wrong – is synonymous with hating them. Could this be why some Christians feel our writing is mean spirited or hateful?
When faced with such a dilemma it is important for a Christian to stop and ask another, more fundamental, question: what would Jesus do? Well, that’s exactly what I did and what I discovered is that, He would really freak people out. You see, many of the things Jesus did and said, out of perfect Divine love, would ruffle our feathers. In point of fact, some of the things He did and said in public to other “believers” would greatly disturb and deeply offend modern evangelicals; especially if He showed up in their churches doing and saying such things. I’ve chosen three examples which, I feel, make even our most vehement Watershed post seem generous and heartwarming . . .
I. Jesus Shames a Pharisee In His Own Home In Front of Dinner Guests . . . Then He Shames the Dinner Guests (Luke 11:37-54):
“While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.”
One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.”
II. Jesus Publicly Denounces, Humiliates, and Shames the Scribes and Pharisee’s in the Temple (Matthew 23:1-36):
“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi . . .“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.”
III. Jesus Takes a Whip and Drives People Out of the Temple (John 2:13-17):
“The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
I would like to stress the point that everything Jesus says in these passages is rooted in love–because I realize this is extremely difficult for many in our culture to understand. Why? Because we have fallen for a dubious lie: that it is unloving to tell someone they are doing or believing the wrong thing. This is because we confuse true, deep, eternal love, with mere kindness. Kindness may often accompany true love but is not a necessary component of true love. I will write more on this topic soon–for now, let it be enough to say that love sometimes involves unpleasant – non fluttery butterfly in the stomach -feelings.
Let me further point out that in each of these passages Jesus is publicly shaming other “believers” – more specifically religious leaders. He is not sinning when he does this because He is acting out of love and compassion and with the goal of justice and righteousness.
Now, clearly (painfully so) Joel and I are not Jesus. However, when we write articles for the Christian Watershed our desire is to be like Him. I’m not claiming we actually achieve this. I’m saying, we strive to be like Him. We desire to promote love through our writings and sometimes this means being what some might consider “unpleasant.” Sometimes it means challenging the beliefs, practices, motives, and attitudes of other Christians. This does not mean we hate other Christians – even really sick and twisted ones (e.g. Westboro Baptist) – rather, it means we love truth, justice, sincerity, and holiness and hate hypocrisy, dishonesty, and judgmental attitudes.