Christians can be…… harsh.
We can be brutal, hostile, full of venom and hate actually. And no I don’t think that’s a little harsh.
I’m careful to use the word we here. I’m right in the thick of this. Trust me, I see my own plank.
But how? Why can’t we see what we’re doing? How do we get dragged into, or perhaps down to, this type of posture?
Well, we speak the truth and love and sometimes love is harsh. Sometimes we need tough love. Sometimes people need a dose of reality to learn, change, grow, etc.
At least that’s the narrative.
There’s a story that comes to mind when I think of “speaking the truth in love.” A proof text to share why the shaming, blaming, calling out and judgment we are setting upon someone is ok. “….go and sin no more.”
It’s the story of a woman caught in adultery.
The sad reality I’m seeing is that while we want to be Jesus, full of grace and hope, restoring and offering a life of depth and beauty that isn’t’ found elsewhere, we often aren’t. Sure sometimes we’re the woman, our shame for the world to see, naked and afraid of what this humiliation will mean.
All too often though, we’re the Pharisees. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Let’s say we are Jesus. Let’s say we are the one brining hope, freedom, grace and redemption. What does that usually look like?
Well it’s us “speaking the truth in love.” And that truth is clear.
You’re a bad person.
You’re going to hell.
You’re not worthy.
True few of us will say that but behind all my well-chosen words, tone and smile, my point is clear. I’ve judged you and you haven’t measured up so stop sinning.
But that’s not Jesus example is it?
“Neither do I condemn you…”
When we’re done speaking the truth in love what do they hear? What do they remember?
I guarantee the woman remembers Jesus saying the he doesn’t condemn her. I also know from listening that, more often than not, all those we are speaking to in love hear is condemnation. All they hear is sin no more.
No love, no hope, no redemption.
Just a clear statement about how they are wrong, we are right and they need to shape up before we can even bother to treat them as an equal. Treat them as a person.
Your go and sin no more doesn’t matter if you start with condemnation. You don’t get to come as a Pharisee and leave as Jesus.
But I worry there is something deeper and troubling at play here.
I worry all we’re doing is repeating out loud the internal narrative we speak to ourselves. Over and over and over our Pharisaical side drags our broken, hurting, shameful side out and throws it out in full view. We torment ourselves, saying that if we would just stop yelling/ judging/ cheating/ hating /etc. we’d be a good Christian. We’d be worthy. If we could just go and sin no more than Jesus will say “neither do I condemn you.”
We condemn ourselves first, over and over, creating a belief that until it’s all sorted we aren’t really ready.
Ready to be Jesus to others.
Ready to love recklessly.
Ready to share grace and hope.
Ready to be vulnerable and let people in.
Ready to jump into the messiness of others.
If only we could sin no more, we’d be worthy of being used.
If asked, we’d say God uses the broken. We’d say we know he’s forgiven us.
But in the quiet, the moments between our mind and heart, we throw our broken self in front of the crowd, reinforcing how we don’t stack up and aren’t good enough. How someone will find out we’re a fraud. How the moment people see we are actually as broken as we say, it isn’t some show of humility, it’s all over.
More often than we’d like to admit, we can’t even speak to ourselves in love, can’t help but condemn ourselves.
Sadly it’s often easier to force others to sort themselves than to stare into the broken reality of ourselves and believe “Neither do I condemn you.”