A Higher Standard

A Higher Standard

I’ve a confession to make.

I’ve been watching the turmoil in America, surrounding the Trump presidency, with avid interest.

I’m not going to tell you which side I come down on. This blog post is not intended to make a political point. It’s intended to make a spiritual one.

Most of us can agree that, no matter which side we espouse, watching the commentators go at each other is entertaining. It’s entertaining as hell. As I observe my own reaction to them, I feel a little as though I’m treading the path there—to hell.

You see, I’ve noticed something disturbing about myself as I watch the turmoil. 

When I watch the vitriol being flung back and forth, I also begin to ooze it. Not in the sphere of politics, but in my personal life. I notice myself getting more critical, more judgemental, less patient, less loving.

I become what I watch.

I don’t like what I become.

This is not the first time I’ve noticed this about myself. About six months ago, I observed the same thing happening. So I swore off of watching the “entertainment”. But a few weeks ago, I got sucked in again. 

And today I realize that if I’m experiencing this negative impact, other people probably are too.

Today I want to issue a challenge—particularly if you’re fascinated by something that involves criticism levelled at fellow human beings. 

Please set aside some time by yourself, and prayerfully ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Am I a better person now than when I started watching this stuff?
  2. Am I more loving?
  3. Am I less judgemental?
  4. Am I more like gentle Jesus?
  5. Do I make excuses for ungodly behaviour?
  6. Am I addicted to my “entertainment”?
  7. Am I willing to submit my entertainment choices to Jesus?

If even one of our seven answers to this challenge is off, we have a problem. [1]

In the case of the political commentators, I don’t think that all of them are sinful. Watching them does not constitute some sort of overt violation against Jesus. But here’s the reality that I’ve been missing over the past couple of weeks:

It doesn’t have to be sinful to evoke the sin in us.

During His sermon on the mount, Jesus also issued a challenge. He told His followers that it was no longer good enough to outwardly obey God. Inward obedience was also necessary.

  • It was no longer good enough not to commit adultery. Looking at someone with lust was the equivalent of adultery.
  • It was no longer good enough not to commit murder. Looking at someone with contempt was the equivalent of murder.

He challenged us to be so passionate about following God that we are willing to do whatever it takes to obey Him—even to the extent of cutting off a hand or gouging out an eye.

Are we that passionate?

Are we willing to cut off any entertainment that evokes sin within us—even if we don’t think it’s sinful in itself?

In devotions the other day, I came across a little gem in the book of Isaiah. There, the prophet, in looking forward to a future day, says:

And those who err in mind will know the truth,

And those who criticize will again accept instruction.

(Isaiah 29:24)

Did you get that? When we become critical, we disable ourselves from being able to grow spiritually. We disable our ability to absorb and apply godly correction. We become so focussed on pointing out the faults in others that we lose the ability to humbly examine our own lives. [2]

No wonder Jesus said, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” [3]

I no longer believe that when Jesus said this, He meant God judges us tit-for-tat. God is not reading the stories of our lives, circling those times we judged others in red pen, and then saying, “Ok, Valerie judged someone. Now it’s time for Me to judge her.”

When we judge others, our judgment about ourselves starts to slip. We become more and more sinful without even realizing it. We jade our hearts towards the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We render ourselves unteachable. And that’s what leads to God judging us.

 

Lord God, I repent of allowing popular culture to so infiltrate my mind that my responsiveness to You is stunted. I have sinned by allowing entertainment to have a higher priority in my life than honouring You. I have allowed hatefulness to enter my psyche, rather than focussing on “whatever is true...pure...lovely...excellent...worthy of praise” [4]. Please forgive and cleanse me of my sin. Please enable me to love those who hold opposing viewpoints, even when they are hateful towards me or people I care about. Please make me teachable again, and continue to mould me into the person You want me to me. Thank you, Father, for Your promise to continue the good work you started in me, until it is perfected in the day of Christ Jesus. [5] Amen.

 

Notes

[1] God-honouring answers: (1) Yes, (2) Yes, (3) Yes, (4) Yes, (5) No, (6) No, (7) Yes

[2] See Matthew 7:3.

[3] Matthew 7:1.

[4] Philippians 3:8.

[5] See Philippians 1:6.

 
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