There are many things in life that fall into the category of “my call.” The clothes I wear today are a reflection of my own choice, preference, and fashion sense (or lack thereof). I have the power to decide if I like the song playing on the radio or not, based on nothing more than my own style and opinion. I can choose which car I will buy based on the cost, my needs, and simply what I like. Some things fall clearly under the realm of my own judgment.
But that realm is not without limitations – some matters are just not “my call.”
The death of Robin Williams this week brought a flood of remembrances, tributes, and expressions of sorrow to the social media world. Interspersed with the expressions of sympathy, however, were the Facebook, Twitter, and blog comments of professing Christians who felt the need to pronounce judgment. They easily – and callously – spoke of a human being’s death as rationally chosen and deserved, and treated a moment of heartbreaking loss for a family as an opportunity to proclaim their view of eternal condemnation. I certainly intend no malice toward those individuals and respect their right to voice opinion. But with that acknowledgement, I openly admit to them that their reaction troubles and saddens me.
We can debate endlessly the matter of illness versus choice, when a choice is rational or at what point a person is no longer mentally accountable. I do understand the questions and valid points on all sides. What troubles me is the ease with which we give simple answers to matters that are complex and painful, and our tendency to paint everything and everyone with the same broad brush of our opinion. We become so busy debating an “issue” that we completely lose any sense of awareness or compassion for the people – the real, living, and hurting people – who are affected.
I can’t help but wonder, as well, if those who are making simple, matter-of-fact judgments have ever personally experienced the debilitating power of depression. Do they know firsthand what it is to battle such an illness, or how hard it is to watch someone you love travel that road? Perhaps they have and are speaking out of their own experience. I have a suspicion, though, that many who jump into the conversation with adamant answers for everyone else have not dealt with the issue personally. If I have not walked through it myself, my conversation should be marked by humility and openness. Remember, answers are always easy to give when the problem is not mine. And, to paraphrase Henri Nouwen, we are misguided to think that a person can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.
As a follower of Christ, though, I find myself even more troubled by the feeling that in our statements of judgment and condemnation, we are making a call that is not ours to make. Now, before you jump on the heretic-accusing bandwagon, let me be clear about some things: I believe that salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and His atoning work; I believe that God honors our freedom, and even though He desires a relationship with all of us, we can reject His gift; and, I also believe in eternal destiny and the heartbreaking reality of hell.
Let me mention, however, that I also believe we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ – not before the bar of someone’s Facebook post. As we declare in the Apostle’s Creed, it is Jesus who will come from heaven to judge the living and the dead. I don’t recall all those with a Twitter account being included in the process. Scripture and the witness of the Church make it pretty clear that matters of judgment and eternal destiny are His call – not ours.
I cannot truly know the mind of another person, the depth of their suffering, the level of their rationality, or their degree of responsibility. It is impossible for me to enter into the heart of another and know what happens there in the final moments. And as one who needs the grace of God and the redemption of a Savior myself, I certainly lack the position, authority, or ability to declare salvation or condemnation for another. I must leave these things to the One who does know the heart and mind, the One who is just and merciful, righteous and loving.
When faced with the painful and broken circumstances of our world, instead of making simple pronouncements about matters that are not really our call, perhaps the kingdom would be better served if we remembered what our call truly is. And I don’t mean our call in the sense of our judgment; I mean our call in the sense of our purpose. In the middle of all the mess, hurt, and brokenness or our world, what has God called us to be and do? We are called to be an expression of Jesus, a source of light in the darkness, a part of bringing about the kingdom of God. We are called to love unconditionally, serving those in need and caring for the hurting. We are called to love people into a relationship with Jesus, bringing them the eternal hope and peace that nothing in this world can take away.
I doubt that our statements of condemnation casually shot out though a computer screen help us fulfill the call we have. I find it unlikely that those who are grieving and confused will be drawn closer to Christ by words that deepen their hurt. The kingdom is not built when our desire to make a point is greater than our desire to love the lost.
Jesus made it clear that His purpose was to save the world, not condemn it. He came as one heartbroken over the lost and broken, willing to give Himself completely to redeem them. He revealed Himself as one who did not break the bruised reed or snuff out the smoldering wick, but one who brought healing and deliverance. This is the Jesus we represent, and His purpose is our purpose. Giving attention to the call that we do have will accomplish far more than making calls that aren’t ours to make.