We’ve already explained that I’m a fan of the beauty community on YouTube. This week there has been some major drama, and it’s gotten me thinking about something in our church culture and culture at large.
This post, we’re going to talk about our reaction to people who fail. Next week, we’ll dive in to what we do if WE fail.
So very quickly let me bring you up to speed. Tati Westbrook made a video explaining that she was breaking off her relationship with fellow youtuber James Charles, who’s one of the biggest creators on the platform. Tati and James had previously had a very close, mother/son-like relationship. Tati had supported James throughout his career. James replied here.
The actual drama isn’t what I’m really interested in. This isn’t the first controversy in the beauty community, and it sure won’t be the last. As I watched James’s subscriber count plummet, I thought to myself, “how James is gonna come back from this?” And I’ve had some thoughts.
The Pharisee Spirit
The Pharisee spirit in us loves to pick up proverbial pitchforks and cry blood. We label people by their mistake, and withdraw their humanity as much as we possibly can. When we are successful, we ruin lives.
Don’t think I’m not talking about you. Or me. It literally happens to us all. Take a second and think to yourself, “who would I see get destroyed on twitter right now and say, ‘oh, good, finally.’”
The most grossest thing to me about the Pharisee spirit is how subjective it is. A person we don’t like commits a minor infraction? Crucify him! A person we love commits a major infraction? We justify. Well, he had his reasons; someone else just misguided him; he’s really not that way; but look at all the good stuff he’s done; good I’m glad he did it.
You don’t have to be a Christian to have a Pharisee spirit. It’s rampant. Using our new tools of social media, we’re bringing our grievances to the internet and it even has a name. We’re calling it “Cancel Culture”.
Chapter 8 of John’s gospel details an encounter Jesus had with a woman who had been caught in an adulterous act. The Pharisees invited Jesus to proverbially pick up his pitchfork and join in on their condemnation, which according to the law, was completely justified. Jesus declined. He then spoke to the woman -- spoke to her, not at her -- and told her to go home and “leave your life of sin” (NIV). Jesus didn’t let her sin overrule her humanity.
How do we react to people who fail, whether it be our mom, or our best friend, or a big celebrity like James Charles?
A Christian With A Pitchfork Is Not A Good Look
Christians in America have become known for our pitchforks, and it hasn’t won us any fans. The PR of the church in America right now is terrible. We’re known more for what we’re against that what we’re for. And that’s because we’ve spent so much time trying to figure out how to “win” against our “enemies” that we’ve forgotten what we’re for.
The sad thing is, I think the culture has learned Cancel Culture from the church. We created this monster. We didn’t walk in love, in forgiveness, in humility, but rather in pride, arrogance, and hate. We were the people who rallied others into hating what we hate. We were the ones who felt good shaming others we determined needed to be “better.”
It’s time we stop.
I remember a time my sister messed up real bad. Everyone in my (not-Christian) family was throwing the stones at her, so to speak. I kept my mouth shut because, honestly, I was such a new Christian I didn’t really know what to say. I just kinda tried to be there for her when all our other family was being so mean. Surprised and scared but bold, she straight up said to me, “I thought of all people, you would be the one condemning me.” I fumbled the next words so much: “Um, well, Jesus forgave me my sins when he could have condemned me, so like, um, I’m not gonna condemn you your sins.” And she literally says “I don’t know what any of that means, but thank you.”
This is the only way we’ll start turning the tide of our reputation. If we, on a day to day basis, decide to drop the stones we were going to hurl and walk away. Put away our pitchforks. Even when it’s hard, even when it’s tempting, even when other Christians are picking up the stones we’re putting down. We choose love above hate. Love is almost always a choice we must make despite our feelings.
When It’s Tempting
I know this must sound suuuper simplistic, but when it’s tempting for me to pick up that pitchfork, try to remind myself that this person is a person. No matter how justified I feel, or how terrible they hurt me directly, they are a person. I’m not the one that has to live with the knowledge that I did this, it’s them. Just as I believe my value was determined by God and not what I do, their value was determined by him, not by what they do. God has spoken the same forgiveness over them as He spoke over me; he died for them just as much as he died for me; he loves them even now just as much as he loves me. The only people Jesus loved to condemn were the people that condemned others. Equality is the enemy of the Pharisee spirit. The Pharisee spirit doesn’t want you to remember that the cross is the great equalizer.
When people start picking up stones, it can quickly become the worst day of that person’s life. A day they’ll never forget. And in that day, your most hurtful weapon isn’t your stone, it’s your voice. Like I said earlier, the person has to get up the next morning and live with that memory. That old saying sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me -- what a pile of poop. Bruises heal, but I’ve seen words wound for decades. I’ve seen people limp through their entire lives because of words someone else said to them. In Cancel Culture, you have thousands more voices screaming against you.
Instead of using your voice to join in the condemning, an easy way to fight the stones other people throw is to use our voice as an instrument of grace and mercy. The Pharisees wanted to stone the woman, and if they could convict Jesus in the process, hey, two for the price of one. The Pharisees probably used their voice to condemn and embarrass the woman. But Jesus spoke to her with respect, humanity, and hope for the future. On the worst day of their life, just one word of respect or hope can mean all the world to a person.
One thing I love is that Jesus didn’t even talk about the situation to the woman. Not one “So, you know what you did, right? Ok, go on home.” He knew she knew. He didn’t feel the need to lecture or point out where she had messed up. He just told her to run on home and cut out the sin.
Nearly Mandatory Disclaimer:
I feel like I have to say that this doesn’t mean everyone gets away with everything. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase when people get out of jail that they’ve “paid their debt to society.” If someone comes into my grocery store, it’s not wrong to require payment if they want to walk out with merchandise. It’s not condemning to uphold consequences to actions. This also doesn’t mean that, in the light of new information, your or your family’s relationship with that person has to stay the exact same. Please do what’s wise with the information you have. Ask God how to most adequately help and share hope with that person given the situation.