“I was not personally known to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praised God because of me.” -Galatians 1:22-24
Earlier this month, Chance The Rapper drew support and criticism for reading the book of Galatians on Instagram live. I never watched him read the entire book, but I saw snippets and read the opinions of others about his actions. As I began reading Galatians this week, I couldn’t stop thinking about the negative responses to Chance. Many Christians highlighted his previous actions, statements and/or his music to try to tear down or diminish his current action of reading the Bible.
Before you jump to conclusions, this isn’t exactly a blog about not judging, even though it could be. This is a blog about praising God for what He is doing and realizing that we don’t have His knowledge or His viewpoint.
So often, we as Christians forget that everyone has their own journey with Christ. We forget that the Holy Spirit walks with each individual separately for God’s glory and for the body of Christ. If a person doesn’t act how we act or live how we live, we allow ourselves to become accusers, reminding others of their sins and their downfalls. But who are we to criticize the Lord’s servant? Who are we to assume that we know where they are in their walk with Christ? What I have come to realize is that we get so focused on calling out a person’s sin (past or present) that we never take the time to truly love that person and recognize when the Lord is, in fact, working out something within them.
My pastor recently preached from Zechariah 3. We see in this chapter that even as Satan was accusing Joshua, God defended Joshua.
"1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.
2 The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
3 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”
Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.”
5 Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.
6 The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: 7 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.”
Even though Joshua was a sinner, God never told Joshua to remove his own sins or take off his own clothes, God did it for him. My pastor pointed out that the key is to get in God’s presence. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done. Once you have an encounter with God, He is able to make you clean and new. Jesus Christ makes us clean even though all our righteous acts are as filthy rags. Salvation is not something we have to earn. It's something he has willingly given because he loves us (John 3:16).
I noticed that only then, after removing his sin and filthy clothes, the angel of God gave Joshua the charge of being obedient and keeping his requirements. I believe the problem is when we jump the gun. We want people to live a perfectly, holy life and sometimes they don’t even understand the basics of salvation or repentance. We expect them to do it all on their own without the Holy Spirit. We want them to bypass the process and we forget that God is fully aware of where they are and where He has them going. Perhaps, we want them to look the part to please us and we really don’t care about their relationship with God at all.
My pastor’s message really convicted me because I thought about the times I criticized a new Christian’s actions before taking the time to see that the Holy Spirit was at work inside of them.
A friend of mine, who calls herself a babe in Christ, recently wrote a song in which she says, “Everybody wants to judge me, but they hate when I change.” How often do we as Christians judge our brothers and sisters who are struggling with sin, and then speak down on them when they start to make positive change? No one changes overnight and the battle isn’t the same for everyone.
I don’t know Chance The Rapper, nor anything about His relationship with Christ, but seeing him read the Bible and reading the responses to it reminded me of Mark 9:38-41.
"Teacher," said John, "we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said. "For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.”
Now I know Chance wasn’t calling out demons or performing miracles, but I can guarantee you his action encouraged someone to pick up a Bible or speak to the Lord for the first time in a long time. Who are we to say, “He is not one of us.” Who are we to dismiss him from the body of Christ when Christ has the power to make him a new creation? He wasn’t reading his opinion. He was reading the word of God. He was pointing people toward the Savior. Chance may fall over and over again, but in that moment, he wasn’t telling people to put their trust in him, he was pointing people toward the One they should rely on.
May we all be encouraged to complement and assist one another in the body of Christ, instead of working so hard to tear each other down. Praise God for the positive changes you see in the people around you, pray for them and allow Him to work out their faith.