Sometimes it seems like we Evangelicals aren’t happy with anyone. Our perceived human foes are always in need of a good fixing by us, especially by our standard means of yelling at them, wrangling politicians to our side in opposition to them, manipulating media against them, and stewing about them to anyone who will listen. While the track record of positive results employing that process is somewhat abysmal, yet we press on.
In our favor, it’s hard not to think that the wheels are coming off the world. Really, a quick glance around seems to confirm as much.
I’ve written a lot of words to Christians in America over the years. I’m really no one, though. And I mean that. There’s no expectation that anyone will listen or change. Most days are shouting into the wind—like everyone else. I know that. Everyone’s got an opinion, and in America, everyone needs to express it.
But it still bothers me that with people in the American Church pointing fingers at this heretic and that sinner, we tend to forget the Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or as Jesus Himself phrased it:
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
I can’t help but think that applying that one simple rule would change everything. And that one simple rule can be applied to EVERY aspect of life.
Such truth asks that we consider the other guy, that we think of him as ourself. Where we give ourselves grace, we should offer him the same grace in the same situations. And where we would want to be gently and lovingly corrected, we would offer the same to him.
But too often we excuse our sins and live to punish the other guy for his—even when his sin is the same as ours.
I’m increasingly peeved at the hubris that most of us operate under. Nor do I understand how it is that we’re always seeking to fix the other guy when we won’t fix ourselves first. We Evangelicals are constantly in a huff about the condition of the other guy’s eye speck and not so concerned about our own log.
The answer, of course, is a simple one. Jesus notes it in the Gospel of John:
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
Here, Jesus is trying to restore Peter after Peter’s betrayal. But what very human trait does Peter exhibit? He points to John and says (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Yeah, I hear what you’re trying to say about me, but what about this other guy?”
If that doesn’t sum up Evangelicalism 2011, I don’t know what does. We seem perpetually worried about “the other guy” even as the Lord is trying to restore us to our proper position. (I find it telling that John notes this in the context of his own question about those who would betray Jesus, almost as if Peter were trying to get back at John for bringing up the issue and John includes this passage—and its answer—as a deflection back to Peter.)
Jesus’ response is so fitting, it almost makes me weep:
“…what is that to you? You follow me!”
Heaven knows that I am a messed up person. Every day I have to remind myself that the only way the Lord is going to work through me is if I’m right with Him. And that’s going to take an enormous amount of work on His part. My part is to be willing and open to receive His fixes. Yet if I’m perpetually trying to hear about someone else’s fixes and trying to fix that other person my way, I’ll neither hear nor receive my fixes.
And if I’m not prepped the way I should be to minister, then I’m wasting my time and the Lord’s.
Evangelicals, please, please, please hear this. If we don’t get our own house right, judgment will fall on it. It’s time to stop worrying about the other guy’s problems first and start asking the Lord to fix our own. We’ve become like Peter, attempting to deflect responsibility, even as the Lord is telling us what we need to be doing and to stop worrying so much about the other guy.
Every day, I hope to live not only by the Golden Rule but also by personalizing the words of Jesus: “…what is that to you, Dan? You follow me!”
What words will you live by?