But as the issues become more contentious and as the modern culture moves farther and farther away from its Christian underpinnings, my commentary has become more critical, and this is where the problem comes in. I had recently posted about the reaction of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to the forced exit of Brendan Eich from Mozilla, who in 2008 supported California's Prop. 8. GLAAD issued as statement, stating "Mozilla's strong statement in favor of equality today reflects where corporate America is: inclusive, safe, and welcoming to all." My response was that it is neither inclusive, safe, nor welcoming to anyone holding a viewpoint that differs from GLAAD's. For that I'm charged with not being loving and not being Christ-like. In part, I was told "Your original comment about GLAAD not being inclusive, safe, and welcoming to those who disagree--- As if Christians don't do that all the time---so why even make this comment? It's hypocritical. If you are going to point out others' flaws, why not do it to Christians instead?" This was followed by "My point is that it's time to maybe take a break from pointing fingers. Lenny, as a church leader, does not reflect what the church is supposed to look like (like Jesus) when he makes those kind of comments, publicly. It fosters an us-vs-them attitude."
So, as I understand it, I am a hypocrite because 1)I criticize those outside the church instead of keeping my criticism directed toward Christians and 2)by offering criticisms at all I am somehow not reflecting Jesus. Both charges require a response.
Shouldn't Christians Clean Up Their Own Act First?As I explained above, part of my job as a teacher and minister is to filter the milieu of daily events and help others try to make sense of them from a Christian perspective. Perhaps I don't do that well, but I do try through these blog posts, writing, podcasts, YouTube and social media. Because our society is now post-Christian, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Christians are increasingly faced with positions contrary to their beliefs. Jesus warned of such contrary positions when He would warn his disciples to "beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (Matt 16:6) or "When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues…" (Matt 6:5). Implicit in His instruction is a criticism of those who are outside the faith. Jesus is pointing out others' flaws while cautioning His followers not to do the same.
This doesn't mean that I shy away from criticizing those in the church, as the objection I'm answering here is lobbied more by Christians than non-Christians. But to assume that Christians should be perfect before we can ever examine the clearly immoral positions of others is ridiculous. Obviously my objector isn't perfect, yet he seems to feel completely within his rights to criticize me! So, that charge of hypocrisy cuts both ways.
Would Jesus Be So Unloving as to Criticize Others?But perhaps it isn't using nonbelievers as a comparison that's the problem. Perhaps it's unChrist-like to criticize the lost directly. I mean, they're lost, right? Why should we expect them t do the right thing? But, I would turn this question around and ask "Why should we expect anyone to repent unless we show them that they are falling short of God's standards?"
Jesus did this all the time, too. When the rich young ruler came to Jesus asking for eternal life, Jesus criticized his love of wealth. "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor" was His command. When He was face to face with those Pharisees whom He used as a comparison above, He used the strongest language possible to tell them of their evil. When He says that they are of their father the Devil in John 8:44, we may miss the impact of this; in that culture it is like using curse words to them.
We see similar actions by John the Baptist against Herod, Jesus telling the woman at the well that she did not know the Good she claimed to worship, and the Apostle Paul telling the Athenians that they needed to repent. further, Paul continues to warn the church that "neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
Of course, in all things we must balance our criticism in love. The command for defense is always "with gentleness and respect" and any Christian who doesn't treat people as people first and foremost is sinning. But criticism of wrongdoing is not unChrist-like. In fact, it is doing the very thing that Jesus did.
Any parent will know that they tell their child "no" far more than they affirm them. If you don't, the child becomes spoiled, thinking that anything they wish is permissible. For me not to shout an alarm to the Christian who may be damaged by a view popular in culture today would be as neglectful as uncritical parent. It isn't hypocritical for me to call out to others when there's danger in society today. It's what Jesus did to protect His sheep.