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Christian Living Perspective

Making the Call

As a kid back in the 70’s, one of my favorite Saturday afternoon activities was watching ABC’s Wide World of Sports with my dad.

The show’s opening scene, accompanied by an olympic style fanfare and a collection of sport clips, was unforgettable. For years, I could lip sync to the golden voice of Jim McKay without missing a syllable:

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!

One of my favorite parts of the program was a feature entitled, “You Make the Call.”

A commentator set the scene and then showed a clip of a too-close-to-call play from an epic game. The viewer was then invited to choose from a list of possible rulings by the referees. Finally, the commentator would return (after a commercial break) to share the actual result.

Even at 9 or 10 years old, I loved to debate the possible rulings with my dad. It usually went something like this:

Me: That’s easy, dad. It’s 1st and 10, Packers.

Dad: Son, this is synchronized swimming.

All joking aside, it dawned on me later how chaotic it would be if the fans in the stands actually DID “Make the Call.”

Frazzled Referee: Ok, who thinks it’s 1st and 10 Packers? Raise your hand!


God is the umpire. He makes the call.

“For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:4-5 (NIV)

But why should God ALONE be the judge?

Because humans stink at it! We don’t know what God knows, and that means there’s always at least ONE thing about someone else’s situation that hasn’t been brought to light.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke about loving our enemies and not judging others. As you probably already know, here’s how He made the call:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37 (NIV)

One of my favorite descriptions of the word dogmatism is, “to make the uncertain certain.” For the narrow-minded inquisitor there’s no middle ground; one either agrees with them (100%) or one does not.

But where does such intolerance lead? It leads to judging, condemning and not forgiving.

And that’s why God is the umpire. He makes the call.

“Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. ” Romans 14:13 (MSG)


Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Categories
Christian Blog forgiveness

Must Repentance Happen All at Once?

My blogging buddy Jeffrey has a daily series where he shares a scripture passage and then provides some brief thoughts. The topic this July 4th was, “Let it go,”– based on Colossians 3:13–and it was all about forgiving the faults of others because, after all, Jesus does the same for us.

Jeffrey is quite the wordsmith when it comes to encapsulating truth. And somehow, this pithy statement (below) jarred my memory about a rush to judgement involving someone who later became famous.

We’re all in the ditch. Who’s got the right to say I’m muddier than they are?

Jeffrey H. King, in Quote for 07/04/2020

I recently learned an interesting fact about country music legend Willie Nelson. In the 1950’s he taught Sunday School at a Baptist church in Fort Worth, Texas! However, his pastor gave him an ultimatum–either stop playing music in beer joints, or stop teaching Sunday School.

Nelson, who told Rolling Stone magazine in 1978 that he once considered being a preacher, left the church (and organized Christianity) for good. Understandably, he was disappointed by a policy that arbitrarily condemned people like him. According to a 1997 interview in Texas Monthly, “Willie’s God was always willing to give a guy another chance.”

*Maybe it’s just me, but that pastor sounds a bit legalistic.

No, playing music in bars and teaching Sunday School don’t exactly go together, but was it REALLY necessary to give Willie such an ultimatum?

“Don’t conclude before you understand. After you understand, don’t judge.”

Ann Dunham

Instead of firing Willie, his pastor could have suggested starting a Saturday night concert series at the church, where Nelson and his music buddies played alcohol free shows featuring gospel and G-rated country music. Monetary donations for the musicians could have come from church members and the community. Who knows, maybe the “Red-headed Stranger” would have said yes?

That church missed a unique opportunity to reach people with the gospel.

This brings up the idea of repentance. It means the same thing between everyone and God–a turning around–but it doesn’t always happen the same way. Some have an all-at-once-life-changing testimony, but others do not.

Please observe the following crudely drawn illustrations:

My good friend, and brother in Christ, came up with a saying that’s a great example of the picture on the right:

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do.”

Tom Myers

Just in case you’re wondering, the idea that people can repent in stages, and not just all at once, is in the Bible.

2 Kings chapter 5:1-19 tells the story of Naaman, a brave Syrian army commander. He was a successful soldier, and the king’s right hand man, but Naaman had an incurable skin disease called leprosy. Through a captured Israelite girl, he is encouraged to seek healing from the prophet Elisha.

The General is healed of his leprosy, and pledges—going forward—to worship only the God of Israel. However, he asks for forgiveness, when, back home with the King of Syria, he visits the temple of the pagan god Rimmon and customarily bows to the idol.

Elisha’s response? “Go in peace.”

So, there it is. One of the greatest prophets of Israel’s history didn’t condemn a man for wrongly bowing to an idol; he knew Naamon would keep turning left until he was right.

Something tells me, had they lived at the same time and place, Willie and Naamon would have been good friends.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Jesus –Luke 6:37

*Perhaps it’s hypocritical of me to judge Willie’s pastor. Like my buddy Jeffrey H. King says, let it go.