If you’ve noticed the lack of posts here recently, kudos for being a consistent reader! I must admit to some burnout. It’s not that I don’t have many topics I’d like to write about, it’s just that the Internet is such a poor place from which to minister to others that I’m having something of a crisis of conscience adding my voice to the cacophony and lack of action.
One of the things that has set me off lately concerns several posts and comments I’ve read from folks under the age of 40. I have no axe to grind against younger Christians, but when such folks start talking about how someone else isn’t carrying his or her cross correctly, I get furious.
The problem of judging someone else’s ability to carry the cross is a huge one on the Internet. The amount of presumption on the part of these judges is staggering, particularly when that judger has lived a golden, carefree life in which “my cross” consists of mistakenly receiving a mocha latte instead of the ordered cappuccino from the barrista at Starbucks (or whichever coffee dispensary is trendiest among the self-righteous).
The wisdom to discern anything about another person’s life can only be gained through time and the Holy Spirit. Bury a parent or two. Have a child wind upon the wrong side of the law. Suffer a divorce. Care for a chronically ill or terminally sick family member. Adopt a special needs child. Suffer repeated job losses.
There’s a reason why the eldest were the first to drop their stones in John’s chapter 8 telling of the woman caught in the midst of adultery. The eldest were the first to understand what Jesus was saying. Age buys people rights, but that’s largely because they’ve experienced enough vicissitudes of life to know that sometimes they need to withdraw their dog from the hunt.
A prime example of how the young often get it wrong is the pile-on concerning stupid things Pat Robertson said to a man wondering if his pursuit of personal happiness trumped taking care of his wife, who had Alzheimer’s. Was it okay to divorce her and marry someone else?
No, it’s not okay. And the youngsters quoted Scriptures and got riled up and foamed at the mouth and all the other things they tend to do to make sure EVERYONE knew it was not okay. To let everyone know how right and just and perfect they were by letting their righteousness shine before all on the Internet.
But the funny thing about holding onto the rock when the elders have already dropped theirs is that the rock cries out against the holder. And it does so because the holder lacks the wisdom of empathy and basic compassion. To the fool, the path is always clear and obvious. Needless to say, the fool often winds up on the wide path that leads to destruction.
The ugliness that is self-righteousness starts from frame of reference. In the case of judgmental people, they rarely wander outside themselves to ask what it is like to be the person on trial. They don’t have enough rotten experiences in life to have any kind of empathy. They lack that perspective of Jesus, who saw lost people as more than just another face in the “bound for hell” crowd. He saw people as being more than their disease. More than anything else, He saw how He could be there for others.
The great unanswered question in the Robertson fiasco was not about the rightness or wrongness of the reply to the man asking the question about his wife, but why that man asked it in the first place. People who lack widsom and empathy never ask those kinds of deeper questions when confronted with a problem situation. They instead rush to the obvious question with the most broad, simplistic answer. The problem with that mentality is that life is found in the narrow, more difficult way.
While self-righteousness and judgmentalism rush to the approved mob answer, empathy and wisdom draw people to ask how difficult it must be for others to carry the cross.
Anyone who has spent a couple decades watching a spouse slowly lose his/her mind endures a cross unimaginable by most. Not everyone can afford the kind of professional, third-party care that allows the remaining spouse to put some distance between the horror of that cross and the rest of life. We know the simplistic answers, but it’s the daily living in the shadow of that cross that should have us clapping a hand over our mouths before we presume to speak and to reveal our ignorance.
No one wanted to help Jesus carry His cross. Someone had to be compelled to do it.
We can talk all we want about right and wrong. We can point fingers at weasels, liars, and cheats. We can let the world know just how right the Law might be. But for most of us, we are far, far away from anyone bearing a difficult cross.
All the Scripture study in the world cannot trump helping another bear the cross. I don’t care how right you are or how well you divide the Scriptures. It all comes to naught if you are too preoccupied to shoulder for a time someone else’s crushing cross.
Young people, here’s my word for you: One day it will be you. No one gets out unscathed. Be careful what you speak to others bearing up under the weight of the cross. Because you might very well have a massive one dropped on you, and when you cry out for help, you better pray that some kind soul shows you more compassion and aid than what you offered to others.
13 thoughts on “Cyrene Surpasses Berean”
Welcome back! I missed your musings. Haven’t had time to read this yet — but just wanted to welcome you back. Will read it later.
While I didn’t pile on Robertson, I was especially disturbed by his answer. I do have empathy for the man whose wife had Alzhiemer’s because I watched my father struggle to take care of my mother for two years before he finally had to put her in a nursing home. This took such a toll on him that he had a heart attack and died a month after she did. I remember his devotion to her, and while I have some idea what kind of cross that is to bear, I could not counsel someone to divorce a spouse that was stricken with that evil disease.
The pain of the situation you describe with your parents hits home with me too. I buried my parents just months apart. The end was unpleasant for both. I was especially struck that all the people my mother helped in her life seemed to vanish when she needed them. It was a sobering, sobering lesson. That many of those people were professed Christians made it even worse. Heck, I had a hard time getting anyone from her church to even pick her up to take her to Sunday services when she was still in decent health, yet the list of people there for whom she had dropped everything to help was as long as my arm.
My basic problem with the Church today is the lack of self-examination. We are all too quick to judge others and hopelessly reticent to address our own, personal foibles. What Pat Robertson says is less important than what I say to myself. And that goes for every Christian on the planet. The bad theology someone else speaks is never worse than the bad theology I speak to myself. The lack of praxis in someone else’s life is never worse than the lack of praxis in my own. We have all got to stop fixating on the speck in another’s eye.
Newsflash: Pat Robertson said something stupid. Wow, like that’s not happened before. For me, Robertson doesn’t matter as much. It takes no skill or effort to pick apart stuff Robertson says. No one who did should expect a high five.
Where the high five DOES come in is when someone out there goes beyond the obvious. The obvious is to criticize Robertson. The more subtle is to ask about the man who called in. Jesus is ALWAYS found in the more subtle question. You can take that to the bank. We Christians have got to avoid the simple, obvious stuff and start getting to the root.
I was criticized elsewhere for asking about the man who called. Wasn’t he just searching for someone to validate his sin? That’s the response of people who can’t be bothered. If we can lump that man into the category of people who go looking for validation for their sin, then we don’t have to respond to what his situation asks of us. Even if we grant that he was looking for an excuse to leave his wife, there are others in his same situation who are utterly and truly desperate and broken down by the cross they are bearing. We have a responsibility to those people as a community of faith. My personal experience, though, has been that most people run the other way when asked to help shoulder someone else’s cross. Or they show up for a while and gradually fade away. We in the Body of Christ have GOT to do better or else we have no right to call ourselves a body. Chopping off the wounded appendage with a hatchet is not the answer for a broken arm, yet that is how we often practice body medicine in the Church.
I think it is important to make a distinction of judging a statement, as opposed to judging the person. But we are accountable for what we say, if a person claims to be a minister of the gospel and preaches something opposed to God’s word, there are plenty of Scriptures that back up rebuking those who are in error. Especially if the person is someone that has a large platform such as Robertson, who is not a young Christian who may have misspoke, he should expect to be scrutinized for the counsel he gives out. Or at least make a clear distinction between what the Bible says, and his own personal feelings on the matter.
In times past, I experienced difficulties with lay-off or unemployment or death of young family member with small children. I’m glad at least one came to me and expressed sorrow but I shook my head at the rest.
“Are you just going to sit there?” , I thought.
Despite knowing better and despite having been helped in the past, many just don’t know what to do . Sometimes if one publicly goes forward and helps then others will join in. For whatever reason it just doesn’t occur to them.
Jesus didn’t ask for help and the man in Samaria who was beat up didn’t ask either. Maybe they weren’t expecting it.
Normally, when I read your blogs, I’m yelling “right on!” But today I gotta say I don’t see it like you do. I heard too many people say things like, “my spouse is a drunk – that’s my cross to bear…” or “My ADHD is my cross to bear…” or “I’ve got a hang nail – that’s my cross I must bear…” No Way! That kind of talk shames the cross. Bearing a cross means I’m about to die and when I’m dead I have no more claims to myself, no personal dreams, or desires, or hopes, feeling, etc. What I feel, hope, dream, desire comes from Christ who gives me a new life following that death. If Christ’s plan is that my wife must be taken care of by me or that I’m to care for a challenged child for the rest of my life, than who am I to decide I want or deserve a different “happier” life? Is the Christian life hard? Absolutely! But isn’t that what we’re promised? Enduring hardship in this life produces hope and faith, which equips us to endure more hardship which produces stronger faith… and I’m 48 years old on my 4th ‘career’ been divorced once, broke more time that I can count, and am currently jobless and homeless…
I’m using the language of the people I’m aiming this toward. They chose both it and its meaning.
My main point is this: No one should have to go through all that mess alone. The Church is mandated to be there.
Your situation of being jobless and homeless grabs me. Don’t you need a flesh and blood person to help lift you up in the midst of your situation? Must you go through this alone. Where is the Church for you right now? Is anyone helping?
The person asking the question of Robertson was a friend, the spouse wasn’t going through it all “alone”. We don’t know all the facts, perhaps this spouse had a wonderful network of support. The main point is they were seeking spiritual advice from a person whom represents themselves as a minister of God’s word.
And he gave an answer that contradicts scripture, I think Robertson has a high level of accountability being that he heads up a network that calls itself Christian.
“Your situation of being jobless and homeless grabs me. Don’t you need a flesh and blood person to help lift you up in the midst of your situation? Must you go through this alone. Where is the Church for you right now? Is anyone helping?”
I think these are the wrong questions, and what I hear behind them is this:
I hear the pain of being disillusioned by Christians that “should” be there for us when we’re down and out. I’ve been through that situation more than once, and it’s not pleasant.
But I didn’t grow from that place until I stopped looking to other Christians to help, and fully turned to Jesus. It’s actually the same thing you’re saying: stop judging those Christians who don’t help you when you’re down and out. You don’t know what they’re dealing with on a daily basis. Perhaps they are stretched thin, too, and wish someone would come to help them.
My bottom line? In tough situations, I pray. If God thinks someone else should help me, He’ll send them. BTW, I’m 57 and have lived through multiple tragedies.
Dan, I’m about halfway through Greg Boyd’s “Repenting of Religion.” While I’m not sure I’m on board with everything he writes there, I haven’t read the full case he’s making.
The assertion in it that’s stopping me in my tracks is “You cannot love if you judge.” His reasoning is that judging others places you in a self-perceived position of superiority … from which you condescend to pronounce judgment on your lessers. Love levels the playing field.
I am having to deeply re-evaluate myself in light of that possibility. That’s not a cross I bear, but one that I might well have ignored.
People have to make judgments. You can’t function in life without them.
I think I’m going to write briefly on this issue. Look for it soon.
I agree – and I think Boyd will, too. I just haven’t gotten to the chapter on discernment.
Be careful what you speak to others bearing up under the weight of the cross. Because you might very well have a massive one dropped on you, and when you cry out for help, you better pray that some kind soul shows you more compassion and aid than what you offered to others.
And that those you offered your Righteousness to when they needed help don’t just repeat your own words back to you when you go to them. Word-for-word. (That is something I wished I was able to do with the Christian in college who always blew me off with “Just Pray More”, “I’ll Pray for You”, “You’re still in the Flesh”, etc.)