Have you ever watched an ad, whether political- or product-related, and found that you were left not knowing what you were supposed to support? Sometimes, an advertisement is so focused on what we should be opposed to, that it doesn’t actually give us something to be “for”. We are presented with the reasons that the competition is evil, dishonest, oppressive, or uncool. But, without some clear message about a better alternative, we’re just angrier – without a means of doing anything about it.
(Or, as my family describes some of these commercials, “Vote for me, because the other guy is stupid”. Of course, just because one opponent is imperfect, that doesn’t mean either candidate is qualified. Having said that, I do appreciate those who serve their community with integrity and skill, and don’t wish to paint all politicians with the same brush.)
The Internet (which we like to personify, even though it is just content from we human beings) can be the same way. Waves of attacks or vilification are poured out on a person, event, or organization…but without a clear message about what a better answer would look like. We – as a group – condemn leaders who speak ill of others, but gossip about them. We condemn dishonesty, but paper over our own shortcomings with “selective” postings online. We call out those who take advantage of others, but fail to promote love and respect as an alternative.
As people follow Jesus, there is a risk of stopping halfway through our message. The first part is still important: in our fallen world, there is a lot of evil to go around. Sin has established some serious strongholds. There is a lot that must be correctly identified as wrong. And, sin should be called sin. We shouldn’t dilute the severity of rebellion against the perfect standards for which God created us.
However, if we stop there, we haven’t solved the problem, nor have we pointed people toward the solution, Jesus Christ.
In the Casting Crowns song, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners”, this line catches my ear:
Nobody knows what we’re for
only what we’re against
when we judge the wounded
As near as I can tell, Jesus’ primary call to His followers wasn’t to have them just point out sin, nor to have us focus on condemning people. While explaining the reality of sin and its consequences (see Romans 6:23) is an important foundation to understand the gift of salvation, Jesus told us to make disciples (followers of Him). That involves a turnaround (Acts 2:38), and an acceptance of salvation.
Jesus was pretty clear that just driving out evil wasn’t good enough:
“When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”
Luke 11:24-26 NASB
So, the next time we find evil, let’s not just be against sin (although we should be opposed to oppression and the effects that evil has on humankind). Instead, let’s be for Jesus, for living righteously according to His example, and for the people He loves so much that He gave His life for them.