With Fear and Trembling

My daughter loves the old Looney Tunes cartoons. She first saw them at her Grandma’s house, and excitedly told me all about Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck as if they were brand new to her generation. Her latest Looney discoveries are Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. Every day after she finishes her after-school snack and homework, she asks me to look them up on YouTube so she can watch some sitting at my computer. She watches intently for the silly coyote’s next goof, and when it comes she giggles until her whole body shakes and I have to back up the video because she missed something while in the throes of laughter. It’s actually pretty adorable.

And as I watched her the other day, I realized how strange that whole idea is.

Watching….waiting…..anticipating the moment when someone’s plans will fall through and they’ll be revealed as incompetent. Hoping for some dramatic catastrophe and hilarious injury. Shaking our heads as someone embarks on a plan that we know won’t work and waiting anxiously for things to go downhill (often literally, in the case of the poor coyote).

But lately, I’ve noticed that we in Christian circles have been doing the same thing. Only what we do isn’t in front of a cartoon, but in front of Facebook feeds and news articles and YouTube vlogs.

There are people around us who have fallen, some more than once. They’ve made mistakes and are paying dearly for them. Consequences have been set in motion, and instead of enacting our hearts through prayer and asking Jesus where He would be in the situation, we shake our heads….throw around words like “disgusting” and “idiot” and “hypocrite”…and do what we can to make the pain a little worse for them and the people they love.

This is not okay.

Yes, many of the people we see falling have chosen a life in the spotlight. They have positions of influence and reality shows and strong social media presence. They have a platform and, with it, a responsibility to live with Christlike integrity.

Yes, we – disciples – are called to be champions for holiness and righteousness. We are changed people, and our lives should no longer reflect the values of the world. We are called to a different standard.

But what I am seeing really concerns me, and while I don’t necessarily have answers, I do feel like there is something that should be said.

We – all of us – are among the fallen. 

We – all of us – have messed up and could be publicly humiliated by our mistakes.

We – all of us – are imperfect witnesses to the work that Christ has done in our lives.

So we – none of us – have a right to point and laugh and mock and chastise when one of our brothers or sisters falls. The world has set traps for all of us, and the reality is that we all fall in. Some of us, though, have the misfortune of falling where everyone can see.

And when we – the redeemed by grace body of the risen Christ – repeatedly share social media posts that detail the mistakes of our brothers and sisters, we are not showing Christ to the world.

When we comment on blog posts and news articles and YouTube videos with messages other than grace and forgiveness, the world sees that. The world – those still in search of grace and hope and peace and love – does not see Christ in that. They see condemnation from us of each other, and assume that we would have nothing but the same for them. Even worse, they assume that our Jesus condemns them, too.

Jesus teaches us that the world will understand what it means to be a disciple by the way that we love one another, and that isn’t what I see happening in many places. In some, yes. But too many times we are condemning each other…pointing and laughing as others around us fall into ruin. Something in our despicable human nature loves to watch a train wreck, and in the calamity we forget that living, breathing, created-in-the-image-of-God people are dying. In the calamity, we lose our humanity.

And it’s hard. I fully recognize the tension. We ought to fight for holiness and against sin. We are carriers of light, and we cannot sit by and tolerate darkness. We don’t want to simply pat each other on the back with a “there, there now” and enable one another to continue in sin. But I don’t think our pretenses of sinlessness matter a bit if we are tainting the image of the body of Christ by tearing each other down.

I don’t have terrific answers for this. I don’t know how to balance loving the sinner while hating the sin, as they say. It just breaks my heart to think of someone – anyone – our neighbors, friends, coworkers, family members – staying away from Jesus because of what they see us do to each other.

So can we agree to be careful? With our words and reactions and opinions?

I’m trying to find where Jesus would be in the middle of these situations. I think – I really think – that He would be loving on those who made the mistakes and on those who have been victimized by others’ bad decisions. I think He would kneel in the dirt with the broken and would wipe the tears of the victims. I think He would weep for all of them, and I think that’s where we should find ourselves. Because our particular brands of brokenness might look different from one another’s, but we’re all in the same place.


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