And so that song1 goes. It only takes a moment to be loved a whole life long. One sincere gesture, one solemn vow, one true word can seal the deal. On the ugly flipside, it also takes but a moment to be scarred for what could seem a lifetime. One careless gesture, one damning curse, one hurtful word can set off a series of unfortunate events.
Most of you may have heard (and that’s an understatement) about the recent2 brouhaha around Manny Pacquiao speaking out against same-sex relationships and marriage, casting aspersions on the LGBT lifestyle and offending many in the community on an international stage.
I was struck by many things on different levels—the personal, moral, social aspects of it. What happens when in sharing a personal revelation, or something we hold as truth—regardless of our motivations— we then put in question the truths that others believe, and even thrust into a negative light on the lives that others lead?
I was disturbed with how quickly people can pass harsh judgment or let words loose, in any given situation, whether you are the first to make a statement, or in violent reaction to something. In the heat of it all, I had a few choices on what I could or not do:
- Keep silent. What use another voice in the chaotic fray? If I would not add anything of value, then to what end?
- Take a stand, and defend it with all righteous indignation. With no regard for what I say or do, not caring whom I hurt along the way.
- Take an apologetic stance. Not all Christians present Bible truths in such contexts and with judging undertones.
- Truly examine the condition of my heart and reflect on how I myself have judged others. And in any situation for that matter, be it to the tiniest degree, even in the recesses of my heart, I could think of the times in that same day alone when I held myself in higher regard than I should have. Number 4 was the clear winner.
We live in a pervasive culture of snap judgments, of callous words, of an ease with which we throw around opinions or truths. People have become numb, desensitized with all the insults, vulgarity and crassness thrown around in a world that places a premium on speaking freely. And regardless of what you believe in, we are in a depraved state when negativity and personal attacks have become the norm.
Now Christianity is not a comfort zone or feel-good balm that soothes our problems away. And it is certainly not a pedestal that gives anyone license to feel more upright than others. That is why I cannot sit here and judge at a distance people whose struggles and reality I have never experienced. God Himself spared us from the judgment we rightly deserve, and Jesus came into this world to carry the weight of that judgment.
If I think about the instances when harshness and brute force have succeeded in “winning over” people—that would in essence be slavery. As someone who has not been shackled by my beliefs, but has instead been freed by this faith, I would only hope to speak the same Truth in a spirit of love. God has never and will never force Himself on us, but instead waits patiently as the work He does in us bears fruit and turns our hearts toward Him.
In professing this, I want to make known that the reason I have come to believe is not because human will shoved me into it, but because the LOVE of God has truly transformed my life. This love has not made me in any way perfect or immune to the temptations that abound, and yet it has opened my heart and whole being to the glory, beauty and truth of who God is. Only then could I find the humility, strength and grace to fight battles with sloth, lust, pride (the list goes on and on), and submit every detail of my life to Him. Love first above all.
Until such time, it is more often than not a losing battle for Christians to hammer down ideas that have no meaning or value to the hearer. The only true antidote to hypocrisy and judgment is LOVE. It may be the longer, less convenient route, the more deliberate way. But it is the way of Christ
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your FAITH with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with LOVE”
2 Peter 1: 5-7
The call to spread the Truth of the Good News and to stand up for our faith is not simply in the words we say, but in the lives we lead. And even as I “only” write this, my prayer remains that I not only stop at reciting verses, but truly become a doer of the Word. May my deeds be greater than my words, and my snap judgments always cast aside by love.
In all that we do, God is most concerned about the condition of our hearts. Only God’s final judgment will stand, and through faith in Jesus’ saving work on the cross, we are free to live in truth and love. Indeed, it only took that one moment to be loved our whole lives long.
In any given moment, we can choose to speak life or death, we can shine His light or keep people in the dark, and we can offer love, hatred or indifference.
It is love that penetrates, not harsh words. And it only takes a moment.
1“It Only Takes a Moment” (Jerry Herman). You may recognize the song from ‘Hello Dolly’ or ‘Wall-E’ (borrowing from Hello Dolly)
2In Internet time or any time, this may come as a delayed reaction, but true to that title, I wanted to consider the weight of that moment and not make a snap judgment 😉