Leaving religion to follow Christ – Part two

Jesus_writing_sandTo the degree that I judge others, I’m not loving them. I’m ascribing worth to myself at their expense, which is the opposite of love. But I usually think it’s okay to do this, and even pride myself for doing so.

This is part two in my series. If you have not already read part one, I suggest you do so before continuing here.

This may seem like a digression from my subject, but leaving religion for Christ must bring us to the crossroads of judgment and love. We must choose one or the other, for we cannot go down both roads.

How do we know what love is?

I want to know what love is, I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is, I know you can show me

While we probably won’t find the answer from the Foreigner classic, fortunately for us, God shows us exactly what love is:

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16 *)

When we look at Jesus’ self-sacrificial life, even to the point of death on the cross for our sakes, we’re seeing the embodiment of what love looks like. And this is the example for us to follow (at least, metaphorically). It’s laying our lives down for one another. It’s valuing others the same way God values them.

And just how much does God value us? Again, He tells us…

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  (John 3:16 *)

We will only give what we think something is worth. And God gave Himself for us in giving His only begotten Son, which means He ascribes the same worth to you and me as He does Christ. How much worth is that? Can you measure it? See my point? And this isn’t just for Christians; He did this for the whole world (1 John 2:2).

Here’s what Greg Boyd said about what love should look like in us:

“Learning how to ascribe unsurpassable and unconditional worth to every other human being on the planet, regardless of what they’re attitude is toward us, whether they can benefit or they are threatening us…our stance is to be the stance of Jesus where we ascribe worth to them. We manifest that love by what we’re willing to sacrifice for them.” (Boyd, “Sociopathic Religion” *)

There’s nothing more important than this (see 1 Cor.13:1-3). I agree with Boyd, that to lack love is the greatest heresy of all because it destroys everything else.

You can’t love what you judge

gavel_judgmentAs Boyd points out, of the two trees in the Garden, the Tree of Life was the provision, which represented trusting God and leaving judgment to Him. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was the prohibition, which represented usurping God’s place as judge.

While “eating” from the first tree enables us to love like God loves, eating from the second tree puts us in the role of the accuser of the brethren. Here’s how Boyd puts it:

Whereas love is ascribing worth to another person at a cost to yourself; judgment is about ascribing worth to yourself at the cost of others….Every little gossip whisper in our brain, to that degree, breaks the flow of love into us and through us. If we were open and honest with ourselves, we would trace back any withholding of love for another to judgment…We’re saying, “God you are wrong for saying that person has unsurpassable worth…We’ve decided that “they don’t deserve our love…the trouble is, God has already decided that they DO deserve love, as evidenced by Calvary [John 3:16]. Every act of withholding love is rebellion against God.” (Boyd, “Sociopathic Religion” *)

Do you see how rebellious and idolatrous judging can be?

Why do we judge?

The reason we judge is to feel good about ourselves. We were created to find our self-worth from God. And when we cut ourselves off from His love and affirmation, we will seek it out by putting others down in order to elevate ourselves.

This is the tragic consequence of usurping God’s rightful place in our hearts. Jesus said as soon as we point our judgmental finger at someone else, we automatically become hypocrites. We’ve violated the law we think we’re keeping (Matt.7:1-5, 12; 22:37-40).

When we’re not judging

ConversationTo be clear, this doesn’t mean we can’t have honest disagreements with others; it means we don’t denigrate people or alienate ourselves from them because of these differences.

It also doesn’t mean that people we’ve invited into our lives can’t speak correction. We all have blind spots and need each other to successfully navigate the pitfalls of this life. But this correction is not “according to the flesh” but according to the New Creation (2 Cor.5:16-17). What I mean by this is that we remind each other of who we are in Christ, and restore our brother or sister gently when they’ve forgotten that reality, knowing we could just as easily be led astray. In this way, we carry each other’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal.6:1-4).

The bottom line is, we follow Christ by loving others the same way He loves them, no matter who they are, or what they might’ve have done. And if we haven’t been invited into their close circle of trusted confidants, the only opinion we’re to have of them is the one demonstrated by Jesus at Calvary, remembering our own clay feet, and that mercy always triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).

We’ll continue our journey out of religion and toward following Christ next time.

* All Bible verses are NIV translation. All emphasis added.
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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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17 Responses to Leaving religion to follow Christ – Part two

  1. paulfg says:

    “And when we cut ourselves off from His love and affirmation, we will seek it out by putting others down in order to elevate ourselves.”

    How subtly that can happen. How comfortable that feels. How habitual that becomes. How inevitably that takes over. All the while refusing to acknowledge:

    “We all have blind spots and need each other to successfully navigate the pitfalls of this life.”

    Thinking material these posts are – thank you Mel.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Paul. These are things to think about. It’s so subtle and natural, it seem normal. What I’ve found is that my “normal” is to judge more than to love. Have had to do a lot of honest re-thinking. It’s really looking at the plank in my own eye. Ouch! 🙂

  2. Mark L Seeley says:

    Hey Mel, recently saw this quote…

    Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat [“is truly hidden”]—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.
    From The Weight of Glory
    Compiled in Words to Live By – C.S. Lewis

    Mark Seeley

  3. You hit the heart of what my prayers of late have been…That I would love as He loves.

  4. Mel, just began reading Repenting of Religion this morning. One of the things he said that got to me was, “Our judgments are so instinctive that we usually do not notice them. Even worse, they are so natural to us that when we do notice them, we often assume we are righteous for passing judgment!” We cannot judge and love, and it’s definitely not our job to judge anyone outside the realm of believers. We have done that for far too long; we have prevented far too many from seeing Christ and walking into the Father’s embrace. People only see Him when they see His love through us.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen and amen, Susan! What you said here (along with the quote) has been the thesis of my ministry and teaching. My one obsession! 🙂 That I would learn how love every other precious human being like Jesus does, instead of judging them like I normally do. It’s love that wins the world, not our judgment. Why didn’t we get this memo? (John 13:35; 17:23). It’s the water we’ve been swimming in, I suppose. When I had my first real encounter with the Father’s love in 2001, then read this book about a decade ago, I felt like I had just woken up from a bad dream! So much of what we think is righteous is ugly, mean-spirited, and cold-hearted, and so un-Christlike.
      And I totally agree with you; WE have been the obstacle from people seeing God as He truly is. May we repent and learn how to be loved and love others like God loves them.

      • This certainly will be the focus of my own blog this year, Mel. Thank you so much for listing these books; they not only validate what the Spirit is teaching me, but awaken me to a greater passion to speak to the real Gospel of Christ and the message of the Father. ❤

  5. Pingback: Help me to love with open arms like You do | In My Father's House

  6. Cindy Powell says:

    Wow 😳 So much good stuff. Lots of “amens” and lots of “ouches” too! Really just the statement that “you can’t love what you judge” is probably enough to keep us on our faces for the rest of our lives! Thanks (I think, lol). Lord, teach us to love the way You love!

    • Mel Wild says:

      “Really just the statement that “you can’t love what you judge” is probably enough to keep us on our faces for the rest of our lives!”
      Yes, amen and ouch! It keeps me on mine! Most times I judge others I think about that (I wish it was every time!) It helps me let go of the right I think I have to do so. I pray with you that we would stop blocking the flow of love because of our need to elevate ourselves. It truly is taking up our cross to follow Christ. Blessings.

  7. I know I’m somewhat off topic with my question here, but am wondering what the purpose of the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil was created for and for whom was it made?

    • Mel Wild says:

      It was put there because love requires freedom to choose. There is no love, no life, without this freedom and autonomy. Even our rejecting God is a result of His love. It’s our heart choices that determines the course of our life (Prov.4:23). And it’s in trust and surrender where we truly find unconditional love.

      The choice for Adam and Eve, and for us, is whether to live in God’s embrace and rest and trust in Him, or to separate ourselves and become the center of our universe. The consequence of the latter is fear, toil, and fruitlessness. This is a sad commentary on human nature. We choose to be god instead of choosing life in Him (Tree of Life). This is why Jesus had to reverse Adam’s choice, so that we could finally see what we’ve always wanted in the deepest part in our hearts but didn’t dare to believe…a life overflowing with love and wholeness and boundless grace.

      I hope this answers your question. Blessings to you.

  8. This is so good Mel! I’ve learned that the best thing to do when I feel tempted to judge others is instead take time to pray for them and their situation and also show them the grace and love Jesus shows me over and over again when I fail. Loving others, especially when it’s not easy to do so exemplifies Christ’s love so well because He loved us and deemed us worthy of giving His own life up when we did absolutely nothing to deserve it. It’s our turn to be like Him and love others + see their worth in Him just like He does.

    Thank you for the post!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Awesome Anna. Perfect. It’s hard not to love someone you’re praying for! And, yes, stepping back and remembering how much GOD loves them helps us to snap out of our small and self-interested view of them. 🙂
      Blessings.

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