Writing about self-righteousness is tricky because of how easily hypocrisy could seep into the message. In expressing my disdain for self-righteous behavior, I risk being self-righteous toward those I’m challenging to be less self-righteous! See? This should be interesting…
Listen, let me start by saying that I am guilty of just about every sin there is. So I’m not writing this to shame, condemn, or even vent about Christians whose self-righteousness is most recently apparent. At some point or another, we have all accidentally replaced love and fervency for His kingdom with pride and self-righteousness. Despite my own shortcomings, however, I still feel compelled to challenge my fellow followers of Christ to be more Christ-like, just as I expect them to do for me. And that’s why I’m writing this– because it has become abundantly apparent that the self-rightous, “I’m more faithful than you” attitude is alive and well in wake of the recent presidential election.
“It is so evident and clear whose trust is not in the Lord.”
“I, for one, haven’t forgotten who our true leader is in Heaven.”
“If you voted for ______, how can you call yourself a Christian?”
These are just a few examples of statuses I’ve seen on my timeline. And they’re not okay. They scream judgement, pride, and a “holier than thou” outlook. They scream, “I know how to be a better Christian than you.” They scream, “You’re weaker than me.”
Yeesh. I mean, come on. Urging people to remember God’s sovereignty is one thing, but judging them for their worry is another. Recognizing where candidates’ beliefs and policies don’t align with scripture is one thing, but assuming you know the hearts of each voter is another. Challenging and helping your friends’ faith is one thing, but subtly (or not so subtly) touting your own faith as stronger and better is another.
What we as disciples and followers of Jesus Christ must remember is that our calling is great, but our knowledge is slight. We are loved, beautiful, powerful vessels of light, but equally as weak. All of us. Furthermore, a devoted follower of God is no more deserving of salvation than an atheist. Salvation comes by way of grace, so every thought that leaves your brain, every word that leaves your tongue, and every social media status that leaves your fingertips should be processed with humility and gratitude in mind. This is not to say you can’t stand up for the things the Bible calls us to proclaim, but to quote that first status I mentioned, “it is so evident and clear” when your zeal is motivated by pride rather than a reaction to grace that yields earnest desire to spread His love.
Viewing your faith as better or worse than others’ is incredibly dangerous. Because of the human condition of pride, many Christians have turned to measuring faith as “strong” or “weak.” As “right” or “misguided.” While scriptures certainly make clear what our faith should look like (to a certain extent), they also make abundantly clear that we are in no place to determine that validity of someone else’s relationship with God. Again, we can challenge our brothers and sisters, hold one another accountable, and excitedly share the Gospel, but we absolutely cannot become so self-righteous as to think we know where other followers stand in God’s eyes.
I don’t care how “obvious” someone’s sin is– be it their lack of surrender over an election, or immorality between the sheets. Those things may be symptoms of a sinful nature that may require some help in addressing, but just as that person faces their struggles, I guarantee that you face some of your own. If you feel compelled to address their sin out of dutiful fervor to help another soul please the God who granted you salvation, then where lies the benefit of a public Facebook status? Where’s the true desire to help, challenge, and hold accountable? I can tell you where that true desire is. It’s lost deep beneath the self-righteous pride you have ironically put on display as the sin in your own heart– a sin that matches the very sins of those whom you’re attempting to place yourself so haughtily above.
Righteous indignation has its place, but I feel confident in saying that that place is not in social media statuses. Our culture has been conditioned to view statuses as indulgent forms of communication, for which no respect or consideration is allotted by the reader. Why choose such a useless medium to challenge people if doing so from a humble, grateful heart? Wouldn’t you want to actually reach the the hearts you think need to be changed? If so, best to choose a different approach.
I trust that everyone who put up a self-righteous status in response to this election did so as a response to their foundation of faith and their frustration with blatant opposition to Jesus’ calling for our lives. It would be self-righteous of me to assume you’re a prideful pharisee, just as it’s self-righteous of you to have a superior view of yourself. Thus, I choose in this moment to not be a hypocrite, to not question your faith or your intentions. (And, for the record, I know I’m not always free from hypocrisy in my life, as hard as I may strive to be.)
However, with that benefit-of-the-doubt in mind, and recognition that I’m in no place to judge your faith, please oblige me as your sister in Christ to challenge the way you see your faith and that of others in moments that may seem black and white in your mind. It is not up to you to determine what is black and white, even if scriptures back you up. The hearts of human beings are complex, as is the faith that dwells within them. Only God can judge those who claim to follow Him, so we must stop trying to do His job and instead encourage one another’s faith with love, patience, and the same grace God has shown each of us.
Gentle reminders on social media are great. “I hope we can all try to stay faithful during such a difficult time” is a beautiful display of faith and desire to calm the hearts of others. But flat out comparisons of faith must stop. Such self-righteousness will only spur on divisiveness and pride in God’s people, which is perhaps the most dangerous sin of any, allowing for Satan to creep in and destroy His kingdom’s movement. There is no “better” faith. There is no one “right” church establishment. There is just salvation through grace, so let that be the center of all you say, think, and do.