In the christian realm, people like to use the phrase “protecting your witness”. What this means, in so many words, is doing what you can to maintain your credibility as a christian when under scrutiny from others. As an evangelical institution, Wheaton College attempts to maintain it’s witness in both the private and public spheres. Unfortunately, those attempts have been challenged in light of recent events. Here is a view of what this has looked like from a student’s perspective and what can be done about it.
To start, Wheaton is labeled as one of the most intolerant schools in the country, especially in terms of homosexuality. What many do not know is that Wheaton has hosted a variety of panels in the last year to open discussion about being a christian-homosexual, struggles with same sex attraction, and how to be heard as a minority on campus. Unfortunately, the college was faced with a real challenge when a student stood up in Town Hall Chapel and had an apple thrown at him after inquiring about the school’s stance on christianity and homosexuality. This, of course, sent a rift through campus, was unfortunately picked up by Time, and started a weeklong struggle between students. What is so difficult about this struggle is that, in typical Wheaton Type-A fashion, the student body has fixated on one issue and has not been able to move past it. The hurt and lingering bitterness that has stemmed from these situations has not only affected the campus altogether, but also affected how outsiders see christianity.
Here’s the thing: christians aren’t perfect in any way, whatsoever. The problem christians face is one that only a handful have created for the rest. When something goes wrong the world looks immediately to the hateful words of groups like Woodsboro Baptist to define Christianity as a whole. Not to say Christians are unable to act maliciously: they can, but they get a bad reputation from only a small handful in the community. Unfortunately when controversial things happen, the entire christian community is put under scrutiny.
What I want to focus on here is a topic everyone deals with: judgement.
My hope in discussing this topic is to shed light for those who see christianity from the outside, and provide a call-to-action – of sorts – for christians who are quick to pass judgment. In order to do this properly, I want to turn to God’s Word and see what he has to say about it:
“So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” (Romans 14:12-13 ESV).
In his letter to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul talks most prominently about how christians should behave and, furthermore, how that behavior will positively bring a “renewal of [the] mind” (Romans 12). After laying out the theological nuances of the sacrifice Christ made by dying for the world’s sins, Paul uses that love as a call-to-action for believers.
To those who are skeptical of christianity, listen to this: Christianity is based on an unconditional, undying, and 100% life-giving love. It is based on the love that Jesus Christ has shown by coming into the world as completely God and completely human and dying on the cross for the sins of the world. Yes, people act without thinking, evil runs rampant in the world, and many times, christians do not uphold what they are called to. What many people forget is that christians are also human: prone to error, misjudgment, and evil just as any other human. The difference is that christians are called to behave in a different manner and refine their behavior. Jesus speaks directly to this in the book of Matthew when speaking to His followers:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-6 ESV)
Many have heard this passage and understand the words spoken but for some reason brush it off as irrelevant and overplayed. Unfortunately, we are all guilty (including myself) of doing exactly what Jesus says not to do. What people forget is that this is the heart of God’s message: love one another, as Jesus loved us, without judgment and malice, so as to fulfill the upward call of Christ. It is that simple. If Christ is rooted in love, judgment from anyone other than Christ is rooted in sinful pride, attempting to dethrone Christ. To be a christian and to judge is to lack the central entity that is christianity: love. It serves a far more greater purpose to refine oneself before picking apart others. Until one has removed the veil that covers his or her face, s/he is unable to appropriately critique others. Removing this ‘veil’, or ‘log’ as Jesus put it requires personal sacrifice to Him: abandoning oneself and surrendering entirely to the love that is Christ Jesus.
Before there is any misunderstanding, hear this: christians are to behave a certain way based on their belief system. Non-christians notice this and will call christians out on it. This is a good thing. Christian brothers and sisters: listen to those who call you out on genuine shortcomings in your behavior. Look for God in His workplace; the people around you. Allow that to open paths to personal refinement in Christ as well as evangelism. Furthermore, use this as a means to hold one another accountable. Growth does not come from unnecessary babying, but often requires a certain amount of friction for one to see clearly.
Now, to readers looking from the outside: please understand that christians are not perfect. There is an element of grace that must be had by you as well. Sin is inherent in all of humanity: understanding that you are not exempt from that is the beginning of a journey to love and reconciliation with God. Understand that you are loved beyond your comprehension. Everyone is in need of a savior, and Christ stands with His arms open. Ask questions. Learn and begin to understand. Allow your eyes to be opened. Help lead others. Please do not allow the actions of a small handful ruin the incredible works of the majority. Find freedom in Christ and then begin to see the beauty that lies within.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13 ESV)