Not long ago I was having a conversation with a friend who happened to be a Christian. My friend is a writer, and a very smart man. During the conversation, I noticed he kept explaining why he was right. I wanted to test him a bit, I suppose, so I asked him a hard question, essentially, seeing if he would be vulnerable and admit he was human and made mistakes. My friend looked uncomfortable and answered the question carefully, with just enough self-deprecation to get around looking self-righteous, but very quick to explain why he technically had never struggled with the issue at hand. After about an hour of this, I looked at my friend and told him he sounded like a tortured soul. I was being kind. Honestly, my friend sounded like a slave. And not a slave to God, a slave to public opinion, specifically, Christian public opinion. He had replaced Jesus with a jury of his peers, and he lived his life to make a case for that jury as to why he was a Godly man.
To be fair, my friend is a very moral man. And to be even more fair, I am being judgmental, to some degree, not because I am saying he has a false God, (there is nothing judgmental about making an observation) but because I honestly respect him a little less. He seems spiritually and emotionally unhealthy.
The truth is, there is one judge, and God does not look around to your friends to ask their opinions.
We were designed so our identity would be affirmed in a relationship with God. In other words, my feelings of self worth do not come from within me, they come from an external source. That source was supposed to be God. But in the fall of man, that relationship was severed (it had to be as God could not mix or mingle with anything opposing him, not because He is a jerk, but because He actually defines what is good in the first place) and so after the fall, we continue to look for affirmation from an outside source, and that source is each other.
All you have to do is turn on your television to see this. People sing to get others to clap, they act, play sports, spend millions on plastic surgery and so on and so on. We learn from an early age that people will affirm us if we are funny or smart or submissive or controlling. Our entire personality developed because these dynamics are in play.
That said, in Christian circles, the whole game gets confusing. Christians rightly affirm Godliness, theological accuracy, Biblical literacy, morality and zeal. So the Christian learns from an early age that if he has these characteristics, a jury of his peers will affirm him. And as well they should. But the problem comes when the opinion of the jury replaces the redemption we find in God. I once confronted this same friend about a wrong he had committed, and he became intense and angry. To him, I was threatening his very survival, his ace card (morality and righteousness) in the game. If his redemption would have come from Christ, he could see himself more objectively. But instead, he was a slave to the jury of peers.
This morning I was reading in Matthew, going back over the account of the birth of Christ. I just loved how God did not seem to care what religious people thought of Him, or, for that matter, His own children. The scriptures say Mary became pregnant while engaged, but not married to, Joseph. Now this happened because Mary needed to be a virgin, to fulfill prophecy but also that the birth would be a true miracle and an unquestionable seed from God Himself. That said, though, she was, in todays language, a knocked up unwed woman. Even Joseph wanted out of the whole situation. And he wanted out because he was a righteous man, who bowed to a jury of his peers. It took an angel of the Lord to talk Joseph into going through with the wedding.
So my question to you is, are you a slave to a jury of your peers? Do you always have to explain why you are right? How much do you care what religious people think of you? When somebody else is wrong, do you jump in quickly to tell them so, making yourself feel righteous? My answer to these questions is yes, I do. Doesn’t that stink?
This is all a question of motives, I realize. Nobody is condoning sin, or saying to revolt against religious people. That said, I think we would be a bit more emotionally stable to understand self-righteousness gets us nowhere, and the jury of our peers is neither an accurate or authoritative judge. It really is a waste of your time to defend yourself to anybody but God Himself. And it’s even more of a waste of time to claim any defense other than Christ crucified.
Imagine the time and energy we would save if we actually believed this to be true.