Bomb City and Being Quick to Listen, Valuing Non-Judgment

The recent release of Bomb City, the story of the life and death of Brian Deneke, has unleashed a lot of emotions, opinions, and angst in recent days. Immediately after its release, it seemed like every two or three Facebook posts on my feed had a very strong opinion about the film. Many were bothered by the artistic license that seemed to make things more one sided than many remember. Others were happy that their perspective on the story was being told. Those who relate to the punks felt vindicated that the way they were treated was finally revealed and those relating to the white hats and law enforcement were upset as to how they were portrayed.

As I watched this unfold on my Facebook feed and in conversations that I’ve had since, over and over again two scriptures keep coming to my mind.

Matthew 7:

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use.

James 1:

19 My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 20 for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.

In my opinion, these two scriptures are inextricably linked. We need to suspend judgment of those we don’t understand and listen to what they have to say. In the process of listening, we must suppress the desire to allow any anger or feelings of correction or rebuke to be expressed in that moment. I know I’ve been guilty of hearing an argument or opinion I disagree with and have become so busy formulating a response in my head that I never hear the rest of what is said. When I do this, I miss hearing the heart of the person speaking. I don’t take time to ask why they believe the way they do, learn what they have experienced that has shaped their perspective, or ask about the impact those experiences had on their lives. When I do this, I leave any aspect of loving God and loving my neighbor in the dust of my selfish desire to “set things right” as if my words carried that kind of power.

If we are truly going to treat people as created in God’s image and for His glory, we must take on the heart of Jesus and have the perspective of a servant rather than a vindicator. We don’t have to agree with their perspective or the conclusions they’ve reached, but we can respect that they have been on a journey that we most likely haven’t. Had we been born into their circumstances or experienced what they have, our own view of this world might look a lot closer to theirs. This perspective shapes most of what we do at Mission Amarillo.

When we truly make an effort to live out these two scriptures, it does away with our own agendas and puts us in a position to show people the heart of Christ. There are a lot of hurting people out there with a lot of opinions that we don’t understand. These opinions may have been formed through difficult experiences, tragic circumstances, or maybe a lack of exposure to people who think differently. When we apply these two scriptures by suspending judgment and listening intently, we extend the grace of God to them in a way that is absent from the majority of our culture right now.

So much of our culture today is about being heard in a way that is loudest, as if shouting our perspective will drown out those who disagree with us. Some Christian circles have embraced this method of communication that can belittle and disregard those who don’t agree with us. While this may be a somewhat effective means of winning an argument, it does little to further the true cause of each and every Christian on this planet….to make disciples. With each action, attitude, post on social media, or interaction with those with whom we disagree, we are teaching people what it looks like to follow Jesus. Due to our human nature, we will no doubt give an inaccurate portrayal at times, but by applying these two scriptures together, we can keep those times to a minimum.

This can apply not only to movies like Bomb City, but to anthem kneelers, gun control controversies, racial reconciliation, and any number of social ills that have become so prominent in America lately. Ultimately, what these two scriptures are about is Christ followers putting aside the biggest nemesis we all have….comfort. Not comfort as in having a decent house, enough clothes, or a car that works, but comfort in our thinking. Many of us have created a comfort zone in our own minds that makes life enjoyable and easy as long as we don’t stray too far from it. As long as we keep things contained and don’t consider things like racial reconciliation, how those who are outcasts consider the church, or how our own prejudices may perpetuate these things, we can live nice, easy lives.

Problem is we serve a Savior that loved the outcast, that hung out with “those people”, who cared for those on the margins, and showed unconditional love to those considered “the least of these” in society. If we are truly going to make disciples of Jesus, we must care for those He cares for and must be willing to go where He takes us. In a society where the loudest voices tend to shout down others, I’m convinced loving people in this way will be the most effective means of bringing people to repentance and faith in Jesus. The road to being effective disciple makers starts with loving Jesus enough to suspend judgment and listening to those with whom we may disagree. At Mission Amarillo, we hope this attitude will reflect the heart of Christ, show those in difficulty that He hasn’t forgotten them, and help us to better understand those who have experienced things we never will. As we do these things, we experience a deeper and richer relationship with Jesus that empowers everything we do to the glory of His name.

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