Our culture hates judgment but loves to judge. So how do we overcome this contradiction? By judging the judger. If we can label someone judgmental (and we all are at times thanks to our sinful nature), then we can rightly use our judgment against them. It doesn’t matter if that evidence is hearsay or we only have a snapshot of that person’s life to judge them by. Any circumstantial evidence will do. Unfortunately, this isn’t just what the world believes but many Christians as well.
It’s become increasingly popular to use this reasoning to love Jesus but hate other Christians. After all, there is no doubt that Christians can be judgmental. As a result, our knee-jerk reaction may be to distance ourselves from other Christians. But in our effort to back away from the perilous cliff called judgment, we can easily stumble backward over the other side of it. By dissociating ourselves, we, in turn, affirm others’ false beliefs or generalizations (most Christians are judgmental). It’s troubling that some Christians also believe it’s possible to love Jesus and despise other Christians.
This grieves Christ, but even worse, it is a direct attack on the Holy Spirit. Giving credence to the view that most people who follow Christ are worse off than had they never come to him perverts the very power of the Holy Spirit. This leaves us with one of two conclusions, either the Holy Spirit has no power, or it doesn’t exist at all. No matter which option we choose, it means the Holy Spirit isn’t God and turns the trinity into a binity. Thus, we are left with Jesus and God. This might not sound so bad, but this turns the Christian faith into a dormant faith. It is a faith that can only live in the past or the future but has no real power in our lives today.
Of course, the entire case against the Holy Spirit is false. It is based on circumstantial evidence and confirmation bias. Christians may judge at times, but hypocritical judgment is not a uniquely Christian trait nor even a common trait among the faithful. But when the world sees someone judge and learns they are Christian, it sticks in the mind more than someone who isn’t Christian.
Likewise, when someone lives their life for Christ (humbly serving and loving others without judgment), how often does that work go unnoticed? How often do we pay attention to that person? Caring for the poor, the disabled, and the lost isn’t exciting. What’s exciting is a scandal! That’s what gets our attention in the news and on social media. The Holy Spirit is doing incredible things all over the world through Christians. Most of these things we will never know of simply because the world doesn’t care.
What the world considers evidence of what is good and what God considers good are also at odds. There is no more excellent example than Jesus to prove this point. Multiple times in the Bible, people, rulers, and Jesus’ own family saw him as nothing special. They looked at him with man’s eyes and completely missed the truth! If nothing else, this teaches us that we have to be careful how we look at people. We can’t allow what the world believes to color our perception. If we do, we will not only be unfairly judging others but missing out on the evidence of the Holy Spirit that is happening all around us.
Instead of looking at the circumstantial evidence the world provides (based on confirmation bias), we must look at the actual evidence. We must look at the testimony we find in the Bible and at the transformation (in ourselves and others) that happened when we came to Christ. The world wants us to believe that man is the arbiter of good and evil, not God. Unbelievers want to so desperately prove that their work, deeds, and personality is proof of that while dismissing the evidence we can see in the church. They want God to be unnecessary. They want God to at best be a meaningless tradition you do in your home and have no other place in your life. The first step toward that reality is to dismiss the power of the Holy Spirit, to cause you to question it. How can you claim the Holy Spirit has power when some non-Christians are doing better things than you? You’re not that good. You’re not that kind. You’re not that generous. Look at you. You are judgmental at times, weak, and flawed! This is the danger of comparisons.
While it is true that there will always be people who appear better than others, that isn’t proof that they are better. It is only an incomplete snapshot of who they are at this time. Likewise, just because we can be impatient, unkind, and judgmental at times, that doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit isn’t working in us either. When we allow ourselves to fall into comparisons based on circumstantial evidence, we end up accepting a temporary illusion as fact. As a result, we end up judging ourselves, and judgment can be just as dangerous when it results in false shame as it does when it results in false pride. The world doesn’t know any better than not to make this mistake, but as Christians, we should. God doesn’t judge us based on a snapshot but on who owns our hearts. That’s what matters!
Making the Case
Humanity, not Christianity
So how do we move forward? How do we not allow the case against the Holy Spirit to stand without coming off as judgmental or arrogant? There are multiple things we need to clarify when presenting it to the world.
First off, it’s necessary to admit when we make mistakes and that we are imperfect. Still, we must make sure that the blame for that fault is put squarely where it belongs (our sinful nature and not on Christianity). If we don’t make this simple point, then it creates a problem. It makes it easy to mistake our failures as evidence of Christianity’s fault and not humanity’s.
Justification and Sanctification
Secondly, we also need to articulate the difference between justification and sanctification clearly. These are big and boring words, but they are important because we find a crucial truth in them. That truth is that while God’s saving grace transforms us and frees us from bondage (justification), there is another life-long process that happens in the Christian walk. That process is called sanctification, and it means we are continually maturing and growing in our spiritual relationship with God (becoming more like him along the way). We become more humble, loving, caring, selfless, considerate, gracious, peaceable, patient, and kind as we seek him.
We need to continually remind the world of this process to fight against the false assertion that Christians believe they become perfect at the moment of salvation. The world confuses justification for perfection and ignores the existence of sanctification. Both are essential in our Christian walk as they loosen the power of sin over us, but the very idea of sanctification is an admittance that we are flawed. God is not finished with us, and we need to constantly seek him and his grace throughout this life as he continues to work in us for his glory.
Perfection Vs. Growth
The world may still insist that Christians believe they are perfect because we live differently and think differently. Still, we must continue to remind it that there is no perfect walk with Christ. We will make mistakes. Our lives will look messy, and our spiritual growth might even be hard to see at times, but it is irrelevant. Because what matters is not the snapshot (temporal illusion) of how our lives look today, but how God is growing us in the eternal process of becoming more like him.
It’s far better to be terribly flawed and moving towards God than it is to appear perfect and standing still (no relationship with God). Momentary accolades and praises from the world may also seem great. Yet, without the Holy Spirit working in us, they are only temporal vanity affirming a false reality. From the start, God’s plan has been about our eternal growth. No matter what the world may say or think. What our personality is or how likable we are, doesn’t matter and isn’t the ultimate goal or evidence of anything.
The real evidence is in the Bible and in the transformation that happened within us (and others) when we were saved and continues to occur in us as we grow in God’s image. It’s in the peace we have been given. It’s how God’s grace provides us with the humility to accept that we have significant faults. It’s in the temptations that once dominated our lives that no longer have power over us. It’s all of these things and so much more. The world’s concept of perfection is comical and irrelevant compared to what God is doing in us.
Now, over time it’s important to note that we will not always feel the same as we did when we first came to Christ, but that doesn’t deny the power that changed our lives. Sometimes we will feel closer and sometimes further apart from God. Sometimes we may not always have a sense of peace or feel loving, but our faith is about more than just our feelings. It’s about the evidence of God’s work in our lives and others. The miracles and gifts that surround us as well as the transformation that took place. If we don’t feel God’s presence, that doesn’t mean he’s absent. Instead, we need to ask are we drifting away? Are we pursuing a daily relationship (in prayer, reading the word, and in fellowship), or are we allowing other things to take the place that God once held in our lives? We can never let our feelings or the illusion that surrounds us (circumstantial evidence) cause us to lose the greatest gift we’ve ever been given.
Glorified in our Weakness
With all of this said, it would be so much easier if we were all made perfect the moment we were saved, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, while God does transform us, we still have many of the same hangups, issues, and weaknesses as we did before our conversion. Why? Because it glorifies him, and when he is glorified, it points unbelievers to a relationship with him. This might seem counterproductive. Wouldn’t it be better if we were perfect? Wouldn’t more people want to know Jesus if we were all zombies who acted exactly alike? Well, when put that way, probably not so much.
The problem is that perfection has a way of causing separation. Even with our flaws, many people look at Christians and tell themselves they can never be that way. They fail to realize we aren’t this way; it’s only by God working in us that we can overcome some of our temptations and weaknesses. We still have struggles just like them. We still fail just like them, and despite this, God still works through us. His power and glory are best shone to the world this way because it points to God and God alone as our power (not ourselves). It is a power that helps us overcome impossible temptation or find joy in great affliction.
When Jesus healed a man born blind, he said that he wasn’t born blind because of his sins or his parents’ sins but because it would glorify God. In that glory, many people came to Jesus and found eternal life. That one man’s temporary suffering became an eternal blessing to an untold number of people. There is joy in knowing our affliction can be others’ gain. We may almost seek affliction as a result, but the good thing is that we don’t have to seek it or be born blind to glorify God. We can exalt him in our countless other afflictions and flaws. It doesn’t matter if we are an introvert who hosts a bible study or a cancer patient who spreads hope of the next life. It is in each of our unique struggles that we glorify God. Whether they seem small or large doesn’t matter. Simply by walking in faith and obedience, they become others’ gain. It is in our struggles that we often have the most excellent opportunity to glorify God. This is why God often calls and uses people who don’t seem the best suited for the job. In this contrast, his power is best shown and is why we are transformed in the Holy Spirit but remain imperfect. It highlights God’s power and points more people toward him than any perfect person ever could.
We might not always know how God will use our rough spots, but we can be certain he will as long as we seek him with all our heart. What an honor that is! How much more glorious it is to be used by God despite a disability than to be seemingly flawless and never used by him. We can also rejoice in our infirmities all the more, knowing it brings more people to him than our perfect health ever could.
Ultimately what we see as flaws or weaknesses (physically or mentally) aren’t when we operate in Christ. God can turn a challenge into a blessing, like flipping a light switch. Our weaknesses and failures aren’t a sign that the Holy Spirit isn’t powerful but the exact inverse. God is so powerful that he can use flawed and imperfect human beings to accomplish an incredible, beautiful, and glorious plan!