Yesterday evening, I watched Super Bowl LI. You know, the one that was pretty boring up until the last few minutes when the dynasty-turned-underdog Patriots came from behind and won the first ever overtime contest. But this isn’t a blog about football.
I follow an eclectic group of Christians on social media, so I had seen the posts before the game warning me to change the channel during halftime. When the moment arrived, I kept watching for satan to make his cameo appearance during Lady Gaga’s performance, but he never showed up.
The next day, I saw more posts explaining how the whole performance had been some sort of satanic ritual, but I also saw a video from a few months back of Lady Gaga visiting homeless LGBT teens to meet their basic needs and show them the they were worthy of love and human dignity. I was shocked, as I realized one of these things was profoundly more Christlike than the other.
There are two pervasive voices in our society, the voice of the accuser and the voice of love. Biblically, one of these voices is connected to satan and one is connected to God. (Our English word “satan” translates in both Hebrew and Greek as “the accuser,” while John tells us “God is love.”)
Ironically, I often see those who are connected to God functioning as the voice of the accuser, while those who are not connected to God function as the voice of love.
We see this all over the Gospels as well, with many people who claim to know God functioning instead as the voice of the accuser and failing to recognize God when He stood directly in front of them in the person of Christ. On one occasion, Jesus went as far as to tell a group of believers (John 8:31) that their father was actually the devil and they were not his children (John 8:44). In this, we see that someone can claim to bear the name of Christ, when in actuality they are embodying the accuser in their words and deeds.
I am not saying that everyone criticizing Super Bowl halftime shows is taking on the voice of the accuser, but if you spend more time being critical and tearing down others than you do loving them and building them up, you might want to check yourself.
At this point, I may have lost you, or you may be thinking, But Jared, don’t you see how evil our society is? We need to take a stand against it!
This might appear to be a logical response, but often when we “take a stand” against evil we often become a variation of the very evil we are standing against.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2, ESV).
Here, Jesus states that when we take on the voice of accusation and pronounce judgment on another, that very judgement will come back to judge us as well. He is illustrating the principle that when we accuse someone or something of being evil, we can actually end up becoming the very evil we are denouncing.
But Jared, don’t we need to speak out against evil so people will know what is wrong and what is right?
Again, this may seem like a logical response, but it’s not the model that Jesus or the early Church gave us, and it can cause us to speak from a voice of accusation rather than a voice of love.
Jesus spent more time announcing what He was doing and the Kingdom He was building than He did criticizing and speaking against the existing kingdoms. He did not walk the streets of Israel—which were at the time under Roman occupation and rule—saying, “Can you believe how evil Rome is? Do you see what they’re doing? Terrible!”
For some reason, Jesus didn’t even seem to be surprised or perplexed by the many evils He saw around Him. In fact, one of the few times we see Him really lose it, one of the few times we see Him say, “What in the name of Me is going on here?!” is when He is in the temple and sees those who are supposed to be representing His Father acting in the complete opposite manner (Luke 2:13-22).
Jesus spent far more time telling the Church to get their act together than He did telling the world to get their act together. He didn’t do this because He wanted them to be morally superior, but because He wanted them to be who they were supposed to be: a voice of love in a world of hate, accusation, and rivalry that goes back as far as the beginning—when Adam accused both Eve and God (!) and when Cain killed Abel (ref. Genesis 3:12, Genesis 4). This is why Jesus told His followers “you are the light of the world” not “you are the accusers of the world” (ref. Matthew 5:14). He did not instruct them to curse the darkness, but to instead be the light that shines in the darkness (ref. John 1:4).
We see the early Church continuing this trend. They lived in times of great moral bankruptcy far worse than anything we see today, yet we never hear of them protesting or boycotting. Instead of cursing the darkness around them and taking on the voice of the accuser, they proclaimed Christ as King. In this way, they were defined more by what they were “for” than what they were “against.” This is consistent with the life of Jesus, who did not spend a lot of time saying things like “I am against sickness” but instead brought healing to those who were sick.
I absolutely believe in taking a stand for the things Jesus took a stand for. But I also believe that the best way to do this is by standing up for what we’re for rather than what we’re against. I love this quote from Johnathan Martin that reflects this: “Don’t stand up FOR Jesus. He’s already risen from the dead and needs no defense. Stand up WITH Jesus, alongside those at the margins.” I don’t always do this perfectly, but one of my goals is to be more known for the things I’m for than the things I’m against.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8, ESV).
Disclaimer: I do not write this to shame or point out the fault of others, but to call us forth into our true identity as children of God. While I mention “trends” I see on social media, this is not a targeted response at any particular individual.