Who’s Responsible?

A man goes to a baseball field and shoots up the place where congressmen and their staffers are practicing for a charity baseball game. First, he asks one of the congressmen who is leaving whether the ones practicing are Democrats or Republicans. Glad to hear they are Republicans, whom he has castigated on social media and seeks to wipe off the face of America, he opens fire, spraying the field and wounding four; one congressman remains in critical condition.

The man who perpetrated the crime finally is taken down by police and dies shortly after at the hospital. Then the blame game begins.

Who is responsible for what this man did? Since he was a socialist and a follower of Bernie Sanders, is Sanders to blame? After all, Sanders has said some pretty harsh things about Republicans. Since the man hated Trump so much, perhaps Trump is the one who should be responsible because he “triggered” the man with his policies?

What’s the Biblical position?

Personal responsibility is an overwhelming theme in Scripture. We are responsible for the choices we make in life. No one forces us to make those choices. There can be influences upon us, things that push us in a certain direction, but when it comes down to choosing, that’s all on us.

There were influences on the man who decided to target Republicans. Some of those influences were way over the top in bitterness and hatred. There are people who are saying Republicans want everyone to die because they want to take away their healthcare. That’s one of the middle-of-the-road accusations. I won’t repeat the worst ones.

Yet those were influences only; he had to decide whether to follow through on them with a terrible deed. He died in his own sins; he’s responsible for what he did, regardless of what others said that might have egged him on.

However, there remains some culpability whenever anyone descends into hateful diatribes. God holds them accountable for that.

There is a difference, though, between vicious, hateful speech and truth-telling. As Christians, we are to speak the truth in love and we are called, as far as it depends on us, to be at peace with all men.

What’s the difference between truth-telling and hateful speech? Are we never, in our truth-telling, allowed to point out the real nature of certain philosophies and/or individuals who promote those philosophies?

Did I sin in numerous blogs when I disagreed with virtually everything Barack Obama stands for and how he conducted himself? Am I sinning now when I take Donald Trump to task for his character?

Have you ever looked carefully at Matthew 23? It’s a fascinating chapter wherein Jesus takes on the Pharisees in no uncertain terms. As you peruse that chapter, you find Him saying the following about them:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

Was Jesus over the top when He referred to them as hypocrites? Notice that He even said they were not entering into heaven. Was that an unjust judgment?

Further down in the chapter, He calls them “a child of hell,” “blind guides,” “blind fools,” and “a brood of vipers.”

My particular favorite is his characterization of them as “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” They appear to be righteous but are really “full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

I gather from Jesus’s own example that we don’t have to pull our punches when pointing out sin. But here’s the catch: we can’t be hypocrites when we do so and we have to honestly seek to redeem those who are erring (check out chapter 7 of Matthew on proper judging). If we ever take satisfaction in merely telling people off and get a smug attitude about being right, then we’ve violated the spirit in which we are allowed to point out sin.

We all need to be willing to be truth-tellers, yet, at the same time, we must continually guard our hearts so that we carry it out in the proper spirit.

Each person is responsible for his/her own actions, whether in carrying out an evil deed or in using extreme language that might influence a person toward that deed.

Judge Not?

Obama at National Prayer BreakfastPresident Obama uses the occasion of Easter, at a White House prayer breakfast, to insinuate that he’s very concerned about Christians who use “less than loving expressions.” Mr. President, I’m concerned about that, too. I always have been. But it all depends on what one’s definition of “loving” may be.

For Barack Obama, not endorsing same-sex marriage is unloving. For Barack Obama, not allowing abortion on demand is unloving. For Barack Obama, giving medical attention to a child born alive during an abortion is unloving. For Barack Obama, not letting Iran into the circle of the “civilized” nations by denying them access to nuclear capability is unloving. For Barack Obama, seeking to guarantee the survival of Israel apparently is unloving. I could go on.

He’s done this kind of thing before, most recently at another prayer breakfast where he downplayed Muslim atrocities and tried to paint a picture of moral equivalence by pointing to the Crusades.

When Muslims killed journalists in Paris and then turned to killing people in a Jewish grocery store, he refused to say Muslims were responsible and that Jews were targeted. Last week, in Kenya, when nearly 150 Christian college students were massacred by an Islamist terror group, the official White House response was to ignore both the religion of the attackers and those who were massacred.

Mr. President, my problem is that I know your background. You claim to be a Christian, but whatever Christianity you make a claim to is nothing more than a radicalized Marxist theology that makes Jesus into nothing more than a model to follow for “social justice.” I read the interview you did for a Chicago newspaper prior to your presidency in which you made it clear that 1) all religions lead to God; 2) you’re not sure there is an afterlife; 3) being a good father is what you depend on for a right relationship with God; 4) it is wrong to try to convince others to become Christians.

Judging OthersSo I am judging, based on your own statements, your radical history, and your actions, inactions, and outright string of lies you have uttered as president, that you, sir, are no Christian.

Yes, I can hear the outraged voices: who are you to judge? Doesn’t the Bible say “judge not, lest you be judged?” Anyone who says that discloses a superficial knowledge of that passage of Scripture.

Read it carefully and you will see that, from the context, Jesus is telling us not to be hypocrites. He says that before you judge, be sure you are not doing the same things for which you judge others. Take the log out of your own eye first, then take the splinter out of another’s eye.

Throughout the Bible, judgment occurs, and we are told often to be a discerning people. We are to look at the fruit of others’ lives and determine whether or not they are genuine. Otherwise, we will often be fooled and follow those who will lead us astray. Yes, we examine our own hearts first, but then we are to examine the actions and the words of others as well.

Some people have the idea that being a Christian means you just let things happen without standing up for truth publicly. They say that is true humility. I disagree. Humility is knowing the One who is really in charge and submitting our lives to Him. It means to boldly proclaim His truths so that others will be led away from destruction. To be silent is to connive with falsehood. We are to be watchmen on the walls, sounding the alarm when an enemy approaches.

I will continue to sound the alarm whenever the enemies of God’s truth try to advance. I will not be silenced. And Mr. President, to speak out concerning the falsehoods being promoted by your worldview and your policies is not being unloving; rather, it is being discerning, with the goal of helping people see His truth.

Meanwhile, Mr. President, I would urge you—in the love of God and out of concern for your soul and in context—judge not, lest you be judged.

Righteous Judgment

Why We Must Judge

Every Sunday, I post a passage of Scripture without commentary. Although I often use Scripture during the week as foundational to my reasoning, I like to let it speak for itself once a week. I trust the Lord will use it to minister to someone; His Word will do that.

Yesterday, though, the passage I quoted was from Matthew 7, part of the Sermon on the Mount, and it centered on judging others. While it speaks quite clearly to me, some may misunderstand its intent simply because it is so often taken out of context. “The Bible says don’t judge” is what we hear, yet that is a misreading of the passage. It pulls out one statement without connecting it to the rest of the verses. I’ll come back to the specifics.

The fact is, we judge all the time. And we should. Jesus said we would know who is genuine and who is not by inspecting the fruit of their lives. In the book of Hebrews, Christians are admonished,

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Discernment is essential for Christians; without it, we fall into various traps. We can be led astray, which is why the book of James says,

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Common sense: there is truth; one can stray from it; a person who strays from the truth is a sinner and will lose his eternal soul; if anyone points out a man’s sins, he can bring him back to the truth and out of danger of eternal damnation. There’s a whole lot of judging going on in that scenario, and it’s for the good of the man who has gone into error.

That brings us back to Matthew 7. Verse 1 begins with the warning not to judge because we may be judged for doing so. But in what circumstance? The verses that follow clearly provide the framework: if we are doing the same sort of thing for which we are judging another person, we will be held accountable as a hypocrite. The instruction is plain: you cannot take the speck out of someone else’s eye if you have a log in your own eye. First deal with the problem in your own life, but notice what follows: “and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

So we are commanded to point out the “speck” once we have dealt with our “log.” This passage is not telling us to ignore the actions, attitudes, and motives of others; it just wants us to do so with a clear conscience.

Christians are to be judgmental. That’s jarring to modern ears saturated with the mantras of self-esteem and non-judgmentalism. Yet it is true. Only by maturely discerning the sins of individuals and our society at large can we begin to take the path to redemption—and redemption is the ultimate goal, is it not?

So check your heart first. Make sure you are not being hypocritical when attacking sin in others. But sin must be highlighted for the good of those who need personal redemption and for the good of a society that is teetering on the brink of total devastation. Christians are to be the salt and light in our world by exposing the darkness and showing the way out of spiritual blindness.

A Nonjudgmental Society?

In the wake of the Casey Anthony verdicts, I’ve heard a couple of comments that deserve a response. The first is that it’s rather ironic that the mainstream media was so exercised over the death of Caylee Anthony but that if Casey had aborted her, they would have treated her as a courageous young woman making a “difficult choice.” Spot on.

The second comment is that the reasoning of the jury indicates that we’re a society that no longer feels comfortable “judging” people. We’re afraid of being tabbed judgmental. This affects evangelicals as well, who often resort to the “judge not lest you be judged” mantra. I’ll come back to that later.

I don’t know for sure if the nonjudgmental mentality affected this particular jury. However, I can fully agree that as a society we have opted far too much for what we call tolerance. In the name of tolerance, we have tolerated abominations. How did we come to this place?

At the beginning of the twentieth century, as our elites shed belief in absolute truth based on a Biblical worldview, they substituted new ways of explaining man and his actions. For a while, behaviorism was all the rage. This school of thought posited that man is just a higher form of animal; he is a product of his environment, lacking real free will; consequently, he can be manipulated by stimulus-response techniques just like lab rats or Pavlov’s dogs.

One behaviorist, Dr. John Watson, even claimed that children’s brains were blank sheets ready to be written upon, and that if given a number of infants, he could manipulate their environment sufficiently to turn them into whatever type of person he wished. The bottom line with behaviorism is that man is really not responsible for his actions—his environment determines what he will be. Therefore, there is no such thing as sin or genuine personal accountability for one’s actions.

As behaviorism’s influence waned, Freudian explanations came to the forefront. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, claimed that the key to man’s behavior could be found in the subconscious [or unconscious]. Hidden deep within each person are urges that developed as a result of traumas at an early age. One might do horrendous things but be completely unaware of the reason for those actions. Instead of the environment, Freud tagged the subconscious as the determiner of all we do. Our unconscious wishes originate in childhood, and they are largely sexual in nature.

Freudian psychology heavily influenced two arenas in our society: childrearing and criminal justice. Parents were told they are the problem; they create neuroses and psychoses in their children by demanding too much of them. Instead they should allow their children to follow their own desires. This led to a permissive-parenting mania that I think helped create the chaos of the 1960s.

In criminal justice, we were informed that criminals were not really evil, but merely victims of society and its pressures. We shouldn’t punish them, but focus instead on rehabilitation. One Freudian psychologist, William White, famously said that if you enter a room and find a man dead on the floor and another man standing over him with a gun that has just been fired, the most surprised person in the entire room is the man with the gun. He was not truly responsible for his actions.

As with behaviorism, the bottom line is that there’s always someone or something else to blame.

During the 1960s and 1970s, a time period where we nearly lost our collective minds, Rogerian psychology began to dominate. Formulated by Carl Rogers, and aided and abetted by Abraham Maslow, we were taught that we needed to achieve our full potential as human beings, and that nothing should stand in our way of achieving that goal. For instance, if a spouse is impeding your desires, put him or her aside and follow your own star. Essentially, they created a cult of self in which you become your own god. There is actually a lot of Eastern philosophy incorporated into this movement. The goal now was to meet one’s own needs before thinking of anyone else—supreme selfishness most often couched in the nice-sounding word “self-esteem.” Great. Now we created a generation that believed it had a license to do whatever it pleased, and it was “wrong” to stop them from “doing their own thing.”

As a result, we developed a philosophy of victimhood based on utter selfishness. What a glorious combination. Perhaps that’s what we have witnessed in the Casey Anthony mega-event.

Now let me briefly return to that so-called Scriptural admonition to be nonjudgmental. Here’s the text in context, found in Matthew 7:1-5:

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured out to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck our of your eye,” and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Yes, there is a warning against improper judgment, but not against judgment itself. The admonition is that we are not to be hypocritical when we judge. We have to make sure first that we’re not just as guilty, but once we have taken care of that, we are told to go ahead and take the “speck” out of our brother’s eye as well. Therefore, this is not a passage saying we are never to judge; in fact, there are plenty of other scriptures telling us to do so explicitly.

Have we, as a society, imbibed false notions of personal accountability and judgment? You be the judge. Don’t worry—you can do that.