As we discussed the importance of commitments and what we could do to encourage the campers to honor their commitments, one of the other youth pastors said; “I am the type of guy that if someone doesn’t live up to their commitment to God I hope they burn in hell.”
I remember sitting there shocked that he would say that with such conviction. I was even more shocked than no one challenged him on his statement. I guess we were all shocked by what we heard.
It is true Christians are often portrayed with this type of judgmental attitude, but is this the attitude that Christ Followers should have?
Any time we hope for the eternal damnation of another person we are hoping for something that is contradictory to the will of God.
Consider these passages:
And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 22, 23; ESV)
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20; ESV)
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-3; ESV)
It seems clear to me that rather than hoping a person burns in hell for not living up to their commitments we are to do our best to restore that person to a relationship with God.
We may think that we only have to worry about ourselves, but that is not what happens in a family. To be part of the Church means that we have a responsibility for the spiritual formation of each other.
According to the apostle Paul when we don’t share in the burdens and problems of others we are not following the way of Christ.
To be a follower of Jesus means that we are part of a community.
The New Testament teaches us that our relationship with God is tied to our relationship to each other. If we get caught up in our own “personal relationship” with Jesus and neglect other Christians, then we are not being true to our calling.
Only a person who believes we are called to judge others can say what my youth pastor friend did so many years ago.
It is true that one of our roles as disciples of Jesus is to challenge people in their sin (while we continue to confess and overcome our own sin). This is to be done with grace and mercy. People are more likely to listen when they know that we care for them and when they know we practice what we preach.
One of the ways we develop this attitude is to spend time praying for and serving others. These disciplines help us develop compassion for other people. The judgmental attitude begins to melt away because we realize that, just like us, they face real obstacles in their desire to follow Jesus.
All of us need encouragement rather than condemnation.
Take time to evaluate your life and consider these questions:
- Do I find it easy to judge people who don’t live up to my standard of what a Christian should be?
- How am I encouraging people in their life of faith?
- Have I shown compassion to someone who is struggling with life or do I simply cast judgement?
Jesus had harsh words for those religious leaders who were eager to burden people with shame and guilt, but did nothing to encourage them. He held people to a high standard for life and showed grace and love to them. His desire was that they would experience the love of God.
We are to follow his example.