2 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say,[a] “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. Romans 2:1-11 (NRSV)
The 2012 Millennial Values Survey, conducted jointly by Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, shows that college-age Millennials (ages 18-24) are more likely than the general population to be religiously unaffiliated (25 percent vs. 19 percent in the general population). Younger Millennials’ feelings about Christianity are decidedly mixed. Three-quarters (76 percent) agree that present-day Christianity has “good values and principles,” and 63 percent believe that Christianity “consistently shows love for other people.” On the other hand, strong majorities also agree that modern-day Christianity is “hypocritical” (58 percent), “judgmental” (62 percent), and “anti-gay” (64 percent).
I know this isn’t news to you. You all are hip and happening – heck, you’re a youth director (visions of Pastor Tim Tom from the TV show ‘The Middle’ dance in my head. For those who are curious go here). But in the season of Lent it is less an issue of public relations and more a call to repentance. Repentance is messy. Serving up our enemies on a silver platter of twitter-ness is much neater and easier. Repentance requires that we admit that ‘mistakes were made.’ Repentance requires us to make amends – to clean up our side of the street.
Martin Buber in his monumental work “I-Thou’ established in philosophical language what the Apostle Paul discusses here in Romans 2. Buber sees the world around us being a series of transactions where we treat others as possessions or objects. Buber’s work leads us to re-think how we imagine and treat the stranger, the least, the last, or the lost. Buber expects us to quit trying to conquer others and instead love them.
Aren’t we at fault as well? How many of us have had the thought, “Where can I find some big families. What if the Duggers joined our church? – My attendance numbers would sky rocket!” Ok, so maybe not the Duggers, but you’ve had those moments of desperation when people are not people — they are numbers. Hineys in the pews and dollars in the plate – who cares why they come – just make them appear Oh, Lord!
As pastors, staff workers and leaders we are judgmental, and hypocritical. We have met the enemy and it is us. Every time we point God in the direction of those evil doers. We should remember that those judgmental and hypocritical folk learned it from the best – you and me.
We live in a world that reads these words “We are, first and foremost, heroic and insatiable consumers, and we must not allow the specters of transcendent law or personal guilt render us indecisive. For us, it is choice itself, and not what we choose, that is the first good.” (from Theologian David Bentley – Describing modernity’s ideal of personal autonomy) and the masses cheer! But the church just keeps serving up more choices, and more options – in hopes that the little buggers will pick us one day. And if they don’t pick us — well they are a bunch of heathens – who needs them anyway ?!?
Lent is a time to stop pointing fingers, to cease and desist from judging others, to vacate the premises of our superiority over the unwashed masses. It is a time to repent, to come home. We do well to realize that when we serve up God’s judgement on others we are only distancing ourselves from those who need the Gospel most – ourselves.
Rev. Dr. Peter Cammarano
Peter is the Senior Pastor of Chappelwood UMC in Lake Jackson, Texas. He is a Youthworker and helps teach and train other Youthworkers through SPARK Youth Ministry Conference offering The Birkman Assessment to the graduate students.