On Wolves, Sinners, & Social Justice Hypocrisies

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 thousands 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 and people will truly love.

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 crushing one another. What does our outrage and call-out/cancel culture really say about us?

Distinctions are important in this regard. There is general hypocrisy in which we all share and then gross hypocrisy and public scandal. The gross, public hypocrisies of an abusive 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. Yes, there are wolves and wolves deserve exposure and prompt removal. This is why God ordained church courts for proper discipline.

But many of the current efforts toward social justice fail to make any distinction here. Anyone who disagrees with the prevailing narrative of the culture is deemed a wolf. And failing to make a distinction between wolves and saints who are sinners results in making condemnation the goal across the board for, well, everybody. This is particularly true right now with the Christian ministry. There is a vicious attempt at present in the exposure of actual wolves to assault the entire Christian ministry as untrustworthy. Anyone involved in the institutional church is under suspicion.

Something really bad has happened to Christianity’s mission right now. Surely there are high standards for both ministry and Christian life in general. But what we have forgotten is 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 we are not committing what society defines as the unpardonable sin(s). But God’s definition and classification of “sin” sounds nothing like the world’s.

A Close Look in the Mirror

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

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 sin of others, are you doing things you shouldn’t be? And, yes, speaking to pastors who expose false ideas, are you contributing to what you condemn?”

You who act so sanctimonious about the bad lifestyle of others, have you confessed your own sin? Have you become the Pharisee you condemn: “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.

Remembering the Goal

Our first Adam was the great authoritative representative of the entire human race who plunged us all into the sin and ruin we experience in our lives and in the world. The first thing God did for Adam was make a new covering for his fig leaves of shame.

And as with David, God frequently comes to us through his word and says: “You are that man.” What sins are you hiding? David, after his murder, adultery, and scandal, confessed his sin, and God forgave him (see Ps 51). God’s way is not for the Christian to waste his life on Twitter or Facebook all day long condemning everyone else without God’s inspired solution. 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 sinners to “repentance” and faith in Christ or to receive forgiveness of sins. The goal is to subjugate through crushing the reputations of others.

In any exposure of sin, our first act should be private and from our closet, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner.” Our second act is also private as we pray for humility in our goal of restoring a wayward sinner:”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 (Gal. 6:1).” Our third act is to go to our brother with compassion and attempt to pull him out of the fire with the goal of saving him (Js. 5).

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 we want to see real change in our world, it starts right here, with our own sin. Go down, this day, to your own house justified, first. This will renew our motivations together in what we are trying to accomplish when we feel the pain caused through the sins of others.

1 comment

  1. We should note that most attempts to undo long standing social injustices struggle to make distinctions because not only do they want to undo those injustices, they want to prevent them from happening again. And thus the same approach is taken by many who are working for social justice that is taken by someone who develops a phobia. For example, a person who develops a phobic reaction to dogs either is unable to distinguish between a non-threatening dog from a dog that poses a real threat or is to afraid to make the distinction. Thus, many times people who are working for social justice are either unable to or refuse to distinguish between those actions that have coincidentally been associated with a given injustice. Such is a natural response we all share.

    Us religiously conservative Christians tend to lean toward authoritarianism. And part of authoritarianism involves relying on the ideological credentials of a given source to determine what is factual and what isn’t. And thus, we have become increasingly sensitive to scandals among ourselves because such scandals challenge our credentials. And when our credentials are challenged, we feel that we have less influence when sharing what the Scriptures say. At the same time, we often look to discredit what a given sources that says things many of us disagree with–CRT is an example.

    So we need to reduce as much as possible that authoritarian bend in ourselves so that we can both listen better to those who don’t share our views and put into better perspective the scandals that either we or our fellow believers have unfortunately been involved with.

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