Coronavirus and the Carnival of Judgment, Part 3By Dave Harvey
June 10, 2020
For Those Under Sinful Judgment
Some who are reading right now are feeling the sting of being judged. Speaking with charity sounds well and good, but what good does it do when you have spittle on your car door?
Perhaps you’re a church leader, and you’ve made unpopular decisions about how to move forward with (or without) regathering. Maybe you’re a parent, and your convictions seem out of step with the way other parents are handling social isolation. Or maybe you’re married with a spouse who has made what seems like unfounded judgments about you, notions that are nevertheless gospel truth to them. Perhaps your name has been smeared on social media; your mistakes have gone viral and not in a good way. Right now, you feel more slandered than supported. If you feel that you’re underneath sinful judgment, what should you do?
1. Trust God
This is not about being a doormat or giving up your opinion. It’s about a fundamental orientation that places God in the center of this experience. Remember, you have been called to follow a crucified Savior, the One who “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2), who “suffered outside of the gate” (Heb. 13:12). My friend, did you imagine that you could “pick up your cross daily,” as commanded by Christ, and not have to suffer people’s judgments? While we sojourn on this earth, none will be spared the shame of sinful judgments.
George Whitfield understood. He passed through a terrible, pandemic-like time in ministry where he was the object of contempt, scorn, and slander by a vocal minority. The hardest part was that some who opposed him were once dear friends. But when Whitfield reflected back on the experience, he was able to see and celebrate the beauty of God’s activity. “It is good for me,” said Whitfield, “that I have been supplanted, despised, censured, maligned, judged by and separated from my nearest dearest friends. By this I have found the faithfulness of Him who is the friend of friends.”4 Because Whitfield trusted God, he was able to draw close to God. And he ultimately learned that God works in serious, soul-satisfying ways when his servants come under sinful judgments.
2. Pray Honestly
Hannah was barren and praying silently for a child. When Eli saw her lips moving without words, he sinfully judged her, assuming she was drunk. In fact, Eli accused her publicly, adding shame to her profound grief. But Hannah did not make Eli’s sin the center of her story. She fled to God in prayer.
“O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life” (1:11). Hannah’s prayer is honest, direct, specific, and sacrificial. Hannah knew God was behind her barrenness; even working behind how she was treated over her barrenness. So, she turned to God for help.
If you feel sinfully judged, follow Hannah’s example. Pray boldly! Confess your complete inability to change your circumstances, and confess your total dependence upon God. Declare your willingness to trust him, even when you see no evidence of progress. Pray like Hannah, specifically and sincerely about what you want God to do in the situation. Pray for God to arrange events, situations, and people to spark change in the heart of the one who is antagonizing you.
3. Keep On!
I love this report that was told about Charles Spurgeon: “There is a man who has probably been more assailed and lied about than any other man in England, and, perhaps, in modern times…amid it all, he has not, so far as we know, once replied or denied the charges. He has just gone right on, doing God’s work in God’s own way. As a result, the lies have stopped.”5 Spurgeon’s strategy for dealing with the array of judgments against his ministry was perseverance; he would outlive his enemies. Spurgeon would struggle on!
My friend, trust God, pray honestly, and struggle onward! And as you negotiate the pain of being sinfully judged, always remember the One who was judged far more than anyone else who has walked the earth. The prophet Isaiah tells us, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Is. 53:3). Jesus sweat blood. He felt the strain; he fought back the temptations; he endured the scorn and humiliation of fools. Then he died, only to rise again on the third day. Jesus struggled under the judgment of others; ultimately the judgment of God, but trusted the Father for resurrection power. We can trust God too. Even when riding the emotional roller coaster in the carnival of judgment.
Jesus Knows Your Heart
So, when you are being judged, you can know that you are not alone; you are not crazy; your situation is not incomprehensible; your fatigue is not unbearable; your suffering is not intolerable. Jesus has gone before you in this experience. He gets it. In fact, Jesus sweat and spilled blood to ensure “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
Are you weary? Take heart. Jesus knows your heart! He understands, and he knows exactly what you need. Christ knows you’re tempted to lash out with contempt. He understands why it’s hard to sleep. Jesus knows what it’s like to remain silent; to bite your tongue; even to be spit upon—not on his car, but in his face.
So, don’t give up. You can speak with charity and bear another’s sins a bit longer without striking back. Like Spurgeon, you can just “go right on, doing God’s work in God’s way.” Your work is not over, and God is not done. Leadership is hard when pandemics break, but God will complete what he began in your life and ministry. Trust him, pray to Him, endure for Him. Keep running hard. And when you finish, you will stand utterly amazed that God not only supplied the power by which you persevered, but became the prize for which you raced.