A Plea For Humility in the Face of Scandal

A perception is often created in our social media discourse that Christians who speak out against the newest injustices of the day are fulfilling some kind of duty for God. Our social media world has produced millions of little independent journalists and “experts” in sociology who sit all day in front of their computers anxiously waiting for the new story and opportunity to decry injustice.

We’re addicted to controversy. Whatever new headline, scandal, hypocrisy, or sorrow, there are a million tweeters with ready fingers to expose the hypocrisies of their neighbor. Forget that the Proverbs often commend silence as an answer to a sorrow to avoid speaking foolishly. “Calling out” is now is championed as a virtue, a civic good for an ideal utopian humanity where hypocrisy will no longer exist.

The problem is that hypocrisies only seem to be growing worse, and who really knows what the newest champion of exposure is really doing themselves behind closed doors? Is our champion of whatever cause we pursue, exempt of the same hypocrisy? There must be a black and white Twilight Zone episode somewhere of a society where everyone became independent journalists, angrily waiting to uncover their neighbor’s worst hypocrisies until there is nothing left to uncover. And then the last righteous man emerges, the hero who called out everyone else, who pompously struts back to his wife and family…after a brief visit to his mistress on the way home.

There is no end to the hypocrisy of the human race. I, too, am weary of the scandals, the hurt, the sorrow, the immorality, and the injustices but the question is how we get to a proper solution, because what we are doing right now is destroying us as a people. What does our outrage and call-out/cancel culture really say about us?

You Are That Man

As with David, God frequently comes to us through his word and says: “You are that man.” What sins are you hiding? God’s way is not for the Christian to waste his life on Twitter or Facebook all day long condemning everyone else as the problem while refusing to take the big log out of his own eye. Though our discourse is often cloaked as righteous anger, its fruit is far from working the righteousness of God, because its goal is not to help bad sinners to “repentance” and faith in Christ or to enjoy his forgiveness and love. The goal is to subjugate through crushing the reputations others, instead of leading people in love to repentance.

And in the process we have forgotten something absolutely fundamental to the Christian faith, namely that “all alike have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” What we have lost is a shared humility in our common guilt. We are trained to think more highly of ourselves than we should so long as are not committing what society defines as the unpardonable sin(s). But God’s definition and classification of “sin” is a far different one than the world’s.

There is a reason Romans 2 calls out the religious person, right after the gross list and exposure of all the sick, twisted sins of “Gentiles” in Romans 1. Pick your sinful poison you want to “call-out” in someone else, Romans 2 comes right back at you and me:

Do you suppose, O man– you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself– that you will escape the judgment of God?… and if you are sure that you yourself are aa guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth–you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.

Romans 2 targets self-righteous religious people who call out the sins of everyone else, without recognizing their own. It’s quite effective: Do you think you will stand before a holy God? Do you think your life is righteous before God? You who condemn everyone else on Twitter, do you ever condemn and call-out yourself? You who decry the public sexual sin of others, do you look at things you shouldn’t? And, yes, speaking to me, you pastors who expose false ideas, are you contributing to what you condemn?

To be sure, there is general hypocrisy we all share and then gross public hypocrisy. The gross public hypocrisies and abuses of a leader does incalculable damage. When this happens, public exposure is often necessary to counter the lie and help people in their hurt. We should never support or cover for people in their unrepentant sin. But our first private act should be a cry from our closet, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner, I could do that! I am no better.

Our first Adam was the great authoritative representative of the entire human race. And who is ready to tell God they could have done better than him? The first thing God did for Adam was make a new covering for his fig leaves of shame.

You who act so sanctimonious about the bad lifestyle of others, have you confessed your own sin? Have you become the Pharisee: God, I thank you that I am not like…(pick your guy), I post on social media all day long and call out these injustices. Peruse the feeds of your favorite advocate for justice today, and try to find some amount of debasing from that person as to how they are contributors to what they are condemning. Most of the justice seeking of our day electronically are wasteful exercises in self-justification. God hates it as our forums are full of every kind of unclean spirit.

As Martin Luther used to say, go ahead, grab the worst sins of the day and confess that that is what you are. This is what Christians do. Yes, I often think of myself more highly than others (I am a racist), I have looked in lust for a woman not my wife (I am an adulterer), I have certainly squandered God’s good gifts and not helped the poor (I have abused my privilege), I’ve said a lot of things to people I wish I hadn’t said ( I am an abuser) etc.

Now what? I hate my sins, have confessed them to God, sought his forgiveness, and I fight them daily. I have been forgiven, I am a new creature in Christ, so do you still want to drag me though the mud on Twitter? What have you done? Can you hear the question?

The Want of Humility Before Our “Eyes”

If you are burdened by the state of things and are wondering what has happened to us as a people it comes down to one thing: there is no fear or humility anymore (read carefully) before “our” eyes. I encourage the reader read Book 1 Chapter 1 of Calvin’s Institutes. Much of what Calvin begins with is foreign to Christian experience today.

It’s worth the summarizing:

No one can properly know themselves until they “first behold the face of God.” All that we are is nothing else but a subsisting in one God. But we have a natural pride within us with which we think we are righteous and holy. And when we look at ourselves and weigh ourselves with the greatness of God’s majesty and the precise perfection of his righteousness, we all fall down in frightful humility. When God’s prophets stood before his presence, they immediately feared death, calling out for mercy. When this humility lacks, as it does in our day, when everyone is condemning and hating their neighbor in self-righteousness, this is evidence that we do not know God anymore as we should.

This should cause us great reservation if we are involved with joining in the condemnation of everyone else’s sins except our own, as we seek to falsely console ourselves that we are righteous before God. When God uncovers the sin of someone, as he often does, this should have the effect of making us weep and lament. Some people’s sins are exposed presently so all might fear, but all people’s sins, outside of Christ, are soon to be exposed on Judgment Day when God is going to uncover every secret thought and deed done against him.

The mere thought that Jesus was uncovered in shame for the believer at the cross so that they might be covered in his righteousness, should provide great humility in our treatment of others. We should think upon all that Christ went through to cover our shame before we go and recklessly uncover our neighbor’s shame before the world.

The Christian does not first say, “woe is my neighbor”, but joins with Isaiah in saying “woe is me, I am undone” before the holy presence of the Lord. It is then that Christ comes and touches our shameful lips to cover our wicked words as we seek to make known the same love to all people.

God gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud. If you want to see real change in our world, it starts right here, with your own sin. Go down, this day, to your own house justified. This will renew our motivations together in what we are trying to accomplish when we feel the pain caused through the gross sins of others.