CANCEL, CONDEMN OR CHERISH?

(November 13, 2021) Geri B challenges Christians to live righteously…

We live in a very troubled world today!

And not just the ongoing worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. New terms have become an embedded part of our culture, including a most troubling one originating out of America … ‘Cancel Culture.’

For the uninitiated the definition of this is: The practice or tendency of engaging in mass cancelling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure. This practice of ‘cancelling’ or mass shaming often occurs on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

This is where the assassination of a person’s character, no matter who they are, is permissible, acceptable and at times, applauded.

Even when someone has committed an offence, it is acceptable to hold the person up for public scrutiny – to be judge, jury and executioner all at once. Complex issues are cut down to the lowest common denominator – us and them.

Very current hot examples:

  • Vaccinated and Unvaccinated
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Me-Too Movement.

Cancel?
If someone comments on an issue or a current event, and that comment does not agree with your viewpoint or value, you have the ‘right’ to ridicule, attack, vilify or belittle that person in any way you see fit.

I think Jesus called that murder…  ‘For out of the heart come evil thoughtsmurder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander’ (Matthew 15:19).

And indeed some people who have experienced such open (and sometimes very public) attacks have taken their own lives, unable to bear the onslaught of hatred and shame. And I am not talking about worldly individuals (who have done this for many years), I’m talking about Christian brother against Christian brother, Christian sister against sister!

When we begin to separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters and exalt ourselves above others especially in the public arena, we are not walking in love, nor the humility that God requires of us. No matter what the sin, be it the most vilest, we need to carefully look at our own attitude and what God requires of us in the circumstances.

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Remember Abraham, a man who walked closely with God and submitted himself to the Lord in reverence and humility? When God revealed to Abraham his intended judgment for Sodom, Abraham had a choice: to shrug his shoulders, raise his fist and speak condemnation; or he had the opportunity to intercede for that wicked city (Genesis 18:23-32).

But he did not ‘cancel’ the people of Sodom. Although he was aware of their wickedness, that they were not godly people, instead with a heart of mercy Abraham cried out to the Lord on their behalf, and the Lord was pleased!

Such a lesson for us to learn in respect to those who are partakers with us in the mercy of God – our brothers and sisters in Christ. How much more satisfying is it to see a brother restored to fellowship by your helping hand, than to destroy them with thoughtless words?

Paul so clearly advised this in Galatians 6:1: ‘Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.’

Condemn?
And before we comment that we are not in the Old Testament, nor are we under the Law, let us see a parallel story in the New Testament, because the Lord wants us to understand that He does not change and whatever is in the Old is also in the New!

In John 8:3-11, we read that the teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ 

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But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’  ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’

Many sermons have been preached about this story, some focusing on the gender issue – why wasn’t the man brought before Jesus also? What was Jesus writing on the ground? How did the men know the woman was committing adultery?

These are all valid insights; however I wonder if we have skimmed the surface of this account and not truly gone to the heart of the matter. The men were insistently requiring a judgment from Jesus. They were indignant and outraged and were not leaving without a response. Their voices loud and insistent, commanding the crowd around not just to observe, but to join them in their ’cause.’

There was a good combination of representatives – teachers of the law and Pharisees – men who epitomised self-righteousness and used their authority to influence and oftentimes coerce people into submission. They enjoyed their power and did not always use it to benefit the people (Matthew 23:13).

Jesus saw more than a group of men and an accused woman, he saw their hearts and the desperate need for all to recognise their sinful state, repent and be made whole. So, he spoke to the men in such a way as to expose their hearts individually, privately and to invite them to acknowledge their own needs. If they had recognised their need and humbled themselves before him they would not have walked away – they would have stayed.

Not only would they have remained but (hopefully) would have stepped up to stand beside the woman in humility and confess to Jesus and those standing by that they too were sinners (maybe not adulterers, but definitely on the same ground as the woman), and in need of forgiveness and cleansing.

But they missed the offer Jesus was making or they would not accept the offer – either way they chose to walk away and refuse the salvation that could have been theirs and ultimately to remain in their sin. And in so doing they did not hear, nor receive, that which was spoken to the woman …. ‘Neither do I condemn you… go and leave your life of sin.’   

What a tragedy! Those words were meant for the men also… if they had stayed! And a lesson indeed for each one of us. As the years pass in our walk with the Lord we can become hard-hearted to situations and people around us and because we are well-versed in the traditions of the church or our own opinions (even snap judgments of situations) we find it easier to condemn people without looking to ourselves and our own fallen state.

We all need to keep short accounts with the Lord and daily we are faced with the need to repent of wrong thoughts, envy, anger, bitterness (which are easily hidden from the sight of others).

In no way am I advocating a form of greasy grace and the permissiveness that has tended to pervade the church over time. Sin is sin. But I am wanting to provoke a change from rejection and judgment to a walking in mercy alongside someone who is struggling with a walk in God that is not totally victorious.

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We all need to walk in humility no matter how long we have been a Christian or have served the Lord in ministry.

Remember the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14)? Jesus told how the Pharisee exalted himself whereas the other humbled himself, beating his chest in sorrow (NTL) and said, ‘I tell you, this man, rather than the Pharisee, went home justified. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’ 

One trusted in his own righteousness, but the other saw his sinfulness without the ability to atone for it and received the grace we all look for.

And the Lord himself longs to give that grace to everyone… ‘But he gives us more grace. This is why it says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”’ (James 4:6).

Cherish!
1 John 3:11 reminds us, ‘This is the message you heard from the beginning:  We should love one another’ and verse 18 warns ‘Anyone who does not love remains in death.’ As he concludes this chapter, James encourages: ‘Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth’ (v18).

Rather than cancelling one another on social media platforms for something that you happen to have an alternative opinion about, maybe don’t speak at all (what a novel thought!). Instead, perhaps privately message that person for a meaningful dialogue and allow the Lord to use you for good and not for evil, even if no one else is going to see what you’ve written!

Many Christian brothers and sisters are so longing to hear a word of affirmation and encouragement that will enable them to run and not grow weary, to walk and not faint.

In today’s environment where people are fearful and perplexed with all that is happening, our call is to cherish one another and to treat others as we would have ourselves treated. Our own opinions, no matter how strongly held, are not above the word of the Lord, but are to be made subject to the Spirit of grace that abides in us, the blessed Holy Spirit.

And we are exhorted not to grieve the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, but to live at peace with everyone, as far as it is within our power to do so (Romans 12:18).

Scripture puts the ball firmly in our court… we are responsible and no one else! I encourage you, urge you:  Be a blessing, not a curse! Walk humbly before your God!

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Geri B strongly believes in God’s word and is a faithful, insightful intercessor and encourager. Links:
OnlinerConnect@gmail.com / Abiding in the Vine
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4 comments

  1. I am not a user of social media such as Twitter and such and I was not aware of this ‘attitude’ which you have informed by this article. I agree with your ‘Cherish’ approach.

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