In particular, there is one character that I believe speaks volumes to me about people in reality. Angela Martin is the harsh, judgmental accountant at the Scranton Branch of the Dunder-Mifflin paper company with an extreme negative streak. She is strict, stark and, unfortunately, she is the only representative of the Christian faith at the office. Angela’s M.O. is to respond coldly to everyone she meets and cast icy, disapproving glares at anyone who does not adhere to her rigid moral standards. When asked to pick three books that she would take on a desert island, she chose the Bible, A Purpose Driven Life and refused to pick another one. Even as I laugh at her frequent self-righteous tirades, I can’t help but think, “Is that how people see all Christians? When people find out I’m a Christian, do they automatically see me as an uptight stickler who wields his values like a no-holds-barred license to judge? A frigid killjoy with a paltry sense of humor?”
This got me to thinking about how I come across when it comes to my opinions about others’ moral standards. I’m just being paranoid right? I can’t be that bad! Or can I? Come to think of it, I often find myself adopting an aloof attitude and thinking, “How could any self-respecting person do that?” I won’t usually verbally accost the “offender” in public, but taking pride in my moral “superiority” isn’t any less wrong. Especially after a particularly rousing sermon, my morality sensors are on full alert, and I am quick to set judgment phasers to kill when I see someone sinning in ways I wouldn’t be caught dead—at least in the last few weeks anyway.
God wants us, as Christians, to be holy. To be holy is to be set apart, but it seems like some Christians tend to interpret “set apart” to mean “set above.” This can seriously hinder our ability as Christians to be everything that we can be in Christ. God also calls us to reach out to and connect with people who don’t know him yet. Seriously, who would want to connect with someone who frowns at any glimmer of humor and throws out labels like “whorish” or “hussy” (some of Angela’s favorite insults) with startling frequency? I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s a definite turn-off for me.
Sure, God doesn’t want us to go out and blend right in with the rest of the crowd who don’t care about His holiness, but that’s where being “set apart” comes in. There is a difference between loving/accepting a person’s actions and loving/accepting a person. When it comes to dealing with a person’s sin, can we just let things slip? Can we go without reprimanding the sinner when he or she sins? The answer is yes. Never once are we given the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner to a sinner like some sort of Dirty Harry-style vigilante (Do you feel holy? Well, do you punk?).
According to the Bible, we can’t even begin to diagnose another person’s faults (compared to a speck in their eye) without removing our faults (compared to a giant board in our eye—check out Matthew 7:4). Judging is God’s job, and He’s the only one with the experience and references to qualify. So next time you cast a haughty glance in your unbelieving co-worker’s direction, remember you’ve probably still got a plank obscuring your view of that glance’s intended recipient.
Here’s a little something to think about: Angela may be a humorous character created from exaggerated negative Christian stereotypes, but be careful, one day she just might be you.