How Can We Despise God’s Kindness and Cause People To Blaspheme Him? #229 The Dangers of Hypocrisy, Judgmentalism and Moralism.
Hello friends and happy Wednesday to you! Our passages for the day begin with 1 Samuel 2 and the beautiful song of Hannah, continue to Psalms 15 and 16, Jeremiah 40, and conclude with Romans 2. We ALMOST talked about quite the moral quandary, but, as I don’t really feel confident in my answer, we will skip it. That said, I’ll go ahead and tell you the issue, and you decide what is right. In Jeremiah, the King of Babylon has attacked Judah and deported many of the citizens to Babylon, blinding the king, and killing all of his descendants. They don’t take all the Judeans away, however – leaving a remnant under the leadership of Gedaliah, who seems like a pretty stand up guy. Things are looking pretty good for the Judeans under the leadership of Gedaliah, but – uh-oh, a commander named Johanan has a message for Gedaliah.
13 Meanwhile, Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the armies in the countryside came to Gedaliah at Mizpah 14 and warned him, “Don’t you realize that Baalis, king of the Ammonites, has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to kill you?” But Gedaliah son of Ahikam would not believe them. 15 Then Johanan son of Kareah suggested to Gedaliah in private at Mizpah, “Let me go kill Ishmael son of Nethaniah. No one will know it. Why should he kill you and allow all of Judah that has gathered around you to scatter and the remnant of Judah to perish?” 16 But Gedaliah son of Ahikam responded to Johanan son of Kareah, “Don’t do that! What you’re saying about Ishmael is a lie.”
Well – spoiler alert, Johanan nailed it, a fact you will see when you turn to chapter 41 and the heading reads, “Ishmael assassinates Gedaliah.” Here’s your moral question: Would it have been right and Godly for Gedaliah to have approved Johanan’s secret mission to kill Ishmael before he could kill Gedaliah? Does it make a difference if I tell you that Ishmael not only killed Gedaliah but a bunch of other Judeans and Chaldeans AND then he lures in about 80 more guys with deception – pretending to be a messenger from Gedaliah – and kills them too! Is it moral to kill a mass-murderer BEFORE he murders anybody? Would you fire up the old time machine and go back to 1934 and kill Hitler? These are some real Minority Report questions here, but that is not our focus today, and I genuinely don’t know the right answer.
Instead…we are NOT talking about how to despise God’s kindness and make other people blaspheme Him, but we are talking about how to not not despise God’s kindness and make people blaspheme him. I love double negatives. Put another way, we are talking about a behavior – sadly common among those who claim Christ – that causes others to blaspheme God and can cause us to despise the riches of God’s kindness. You see, Romans 2 is going to warn us of the awful consequences of judging and hypocrisy. These two behaviors aren’t necessarily twins, but they are really close first cousins – close enough that we can talk about them both in the same podcast in the same way that Paul talks about them both in the same chapter. (I’m not going to say ‘kissing cousins,’ being a native Alabamian, and not wanting to perpetuate stereotypes and all…) Let’s read Romans 2 and then discuss.
Ouch. Judging is a BIG deal – especially when it is combined with hypocrisy.
2 Therefore, every one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is based on the truth. 3 Do you think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 5 Because of your hardened and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed.
Putting together judgement and hypocrisy results in a horrifying and odious foulness that drives people away from Christ, and yet I see it all of the time on social media from those claiming Christ. When we judge others for unbiblical moral behavior, and then either do the same thing we are judging others for, or cheerlead for those who do the same thing we are judging others for – we engage in hypocritical judgmentalism, and we shove people away from the gospel as hard as humanly possible. Romans 2:24 has to be one of the scariest sins in the Bible:
The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.
We don’t want this to happen, so how do we live? How do we avoid the horrors of judging and hypocrisy. Here’s a great illustration from Tim Keller:
In the 1990s a woman named Wendy Kaminer wrote a devastating critique of the self-help movement, and the name of her book was I’m Dysfunctional, You’re Dysfunctional. It’s a tremendous critique. Basically, she shows how narcissistic the whole idea was.
She says, “How in the world can you say this is mental health to say, ‘I’m okay. You’re okay. We’re all okay,’ yet out there in the world there is all the blood of the innocent crying out from the ground for justice? There’s genocide. There’s terrorism. There’s all this awful stuff. How in the world can you say it’s the sign of mental health to go out into the world and say, ‘Everybody is okay. You’re okay. I’m okay. We’re all okay’? That’s silly. That’s narcissism.”
She just hilariously deconstructed it. About 10 years later, after she really showed how silly it is to say, “I’m okay. You’re okay. We’re all okay,” she came back with another book that showed she was a bit in a bind, because her whole point was, “Hey, with all the injustice, with all the innocent blood crying out from the ground for justice, how can you say everybody is okay?”
She came back with another book in which she was very critical of what she called the “hard right,” because she saw a lot of people saying, “Yeah, there is evil out there, and we have to bring back the death penalty. We have to go to war.” She suddenly saw all these people saying, “I’m okay, and the rest of you are no way okay.” In fact, that was the subtitle of her book. The New York Times gave the book a subtitle: I’m okay, and you’re nowhere near okay.
She says the trouble with that … She says, “ ‘I’m okay. You’re okay. We’re all okay,’ was narcissistic. That’s narcissism, but to say, ‘I’m okay, and I have the truth. You all are evil, and I’m going to punish you,’ that’s how you get death camps. That’s how you get, ‘I’m the superior race. You’re the inferior race. I’m the superior person. You’re the inferior person.’ ”
She says that’s moralism, and that’s as bad as narcissism. Narcissism is, “We’re all okay. You’re okay. I’m okay,” and moralism is, “I’m okay, and you’re not okay.” Wait a minute. So she was just saying, “I’m okay. Everybody is okay,” is narcissism, but then moralism is bad. What’s left? There’s masochism: “I’m not okay, and everybody else is.” Of course, that’s not right. What’s left?
In the 1970s a minister and a great Bible teacher, who is now passed away, named John Gerstner, was speaking, and he referenced the book I’m OK—You’re OK. He says, “How does that compare to the message of the Bible?” Then he told a story. It was about the fact that he and his wife were on a trip to Asia. They were actually in Cashmere, and at one point they went on an excursion in a little boat. It was he and his wife and a boat man who didn’t know much English and his grandson.
On their way back from the excursion, as they were starting to near shore, they actually bumped another boat. When they bumped the boat, there was a fair amount of water that kind of splashed in and got everybody wet up to the knees. The boat man started getting very, very agitated, and John Gerstner said, “Okay, it’s a little bit of water,” so he said, “It’s all right. We’re okay. Don’t get upset. We’re okay.”
A couple of minutes later, the man was still getting even more agitated, and John was thinking he was very superior. He said this poor man either had an ego problem, or he … He said, “Don’t worry. We’re okay.” Then finally as they got almost to the dock, he got really agitated, and John Gerstner said, “We’re okay.”
The man looked up at him and said, “You not okay. I not okay,” pushed them out of the boat onto the dock, threw his grandson, jumped out onto the dock, and at that minute the boat was sucked down into the water and came up about six boats to the right on the other side. It turned out there had been a hole in the hull. The boat man had seen it. John Gerstner had not seen it, and if he had stayed in there one more second, they would’ve gone down with it.
Gerstner said, “I realize that’s the message of the Bible. I’m not okay. You’re not okay.” Do you realize what this means? It’s not the moralism of saying, “I’m okay, and you’re no way okay,” not the narcissism that says, “I’m okay. You’re okay. Everybody is okay,” not when there’s injustice out there in the world, and not the dysfunctionality, the masochism of saying, “I’m not okay, and everybody else is.”
No, what the Bible says is we’re all sinners. We’re all lost. Nobody has the right to look down at anybody else. We’re all in trouble. We’re all alienated from God. No one has the right to be trampling upon or exploiting anybody else. We all need God. I’m not okay. You’re not okay. If you don’t know that, you’re going to go to the bottom. That’s what’s so unique about the gospel. There really isn’t any other position like that, and it’s the right one…. “I’m not okay. You’re not okay. I’m no better than you. Yet in Jesus Christ I’m a beauty when God sees me. I’m beautiful.” As a result, I don’t judge anybody because God is the Judge. When somebody wrongs me, I leave that to God, and I forgive them. I don’t even judge myself. “Oh, how bad I am!” No, I’ve been judged in Jesus.
Don’t you see that at the center of your life ought to be Jesus Christ, the Judge of the earth but the Judge who was judged? If you bring into the center of your life the Judge of all the earth who was judged in your place, you have both a healthy respect for moral absolutes, and you know there’s right and there’s wrong. You know there’s injustice. You know it’s important to seek justice. You know it’s important to be a good person and a morally upright person.
On the other hand, you are not judgmental toward people. You forgive people. You’re not down on yourself, judging yourself when things go wrong. Oh, the uniqueness of the gospel! The uniqueness of a Christian! Bring the Judge who was judged in your place into the middle of your life.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).