I tend to hold people who claim to be Christian with a higher standard. Biblical or not this tends to only give way to frustration. I am not perfect though I try to lead my life in a way that would not make others pause if they were to hold me to a high standard.
I once went to a baseball game with a non-Christian friend. As many people do at ball games, Christians too, I had a beer. My friend commented to me in a questioning tone something like this, “A Christian having a beer, hmm.” I don’t remember how I reacted, though it was probably a little embarrassment and a quick smile. But this same friend, who had just judged me, was also one who once told me how much he appreciated my non-judgmental approach to Christianity.
I clearly erred there. Though Paul writes that what may not be right for some may be OK for others, if what we do causes another to stumble, then we have sinned. My friend had developed a Christian standard that he placed on me. I failed his standard.
Some time ago I received a letter of support asking for money so the sender could go on a missions trip. A few months prior to that this same young man became the first person I have ever known to drink himself into the hospital. I did not send money. Another person close to me has picked up a smoking habit. He also has been on several Christian mission trips and is planning another one. Though his smoking habit seems innocent enough (it started with cigars) after I told him he might want to think twice about what he’s doing (since he was violating his school’s lifestyle standards contract he signed) he went and bought a pipe. I may be wrong but my impression is he smokes cigars and his pipe regularly. It seems to be a trend his generation has picked up and which I am afraid he may now have an addiction to.
Regardless of the frequency of his smoking, following the crowd and yes smoking cigars and pipes on a regular basis does not match with my Christian standard and certainly not with a missionary. But I wonder now if I have done what my non-Christian friend did to me at the ball game. I don’t think it is wrong to have an occasional cigar if you indeed enjoy the smell and taste of fine tobacco. After all, 150 years ago smoking was very much acceptable. But my standards say if you regularly smoke then perhaps you need to check yourself, especially if you ask for money in order to go on a missions trip. Maybe my standards are too high or even wrong.
I have also worked with Christians. These are people who I apply a Christian standard to. Unfortunately they never live up to my set of Christian standards. A supervisor of mine, a Christian, was, how shall I put it, not exactly honest with me. In fact, I later learned after I left, there was also an element of deception.
This co-employee did not live up to my set of Christian standards.
Romans 2:1 says “Therefore you have no excuses, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”
This is a startling verse. I have not judged, at least I don’t think so, the aforementioned Christians on their faith. As a Christian who enjoys adult beverages, I do think it is unbecoming of a Christian to drink so much they end up in the hospital. Whether he is a Christian or not is not up to me. We all make mistakes. Hopefully he has learned from it. I also believe it is unbecoming of a Christian to pick up a smoking habit because everyone else is doing it, especially in light of all the studies that implicate smoking in numerous cancers and diseases. (What happened to that whole body is a temple thing?)
I have worked with non-Christians too. I hold them to a different standard. If they are righteous and moral in their business practices I give them all the credit in the world. At a previous job, I was laid off after being assured for months that my seat in the bus was secure. The lay off came a few weeks after I received the best performance review I had ever had at that place of business. If the man who pulled the trigger on my layoff, who had also assured me of my continuing employment, was a professing Christian, I can assure you my level of hurt and pain would be deeper than it was. The business was run so poorly, in fact, I was somewhat relieved to be given a severance.
Romans 14:13 says “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this – not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.” Just as I allowed myself certain liberties at the ball game, it caused one man to stumble. My friend’s standard of Christian living, for me, did not meet his expectations.
1 Corinthians 5:13 says “But those who are outside God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” This is an oft-cited verse that seems to allow the Christian to judge other Christians. Clearly, the examples given above do not reflect evil at least in how we would interpret the definition of evil today. But they do reflect a stumbling block. Certainly, a non-Christian like my friend at the baseball game would have his doubts on Christians fortified if he were to learn I ended up in the hospital after a night of binge drinking or found out I was a frequent visitor to a hookah lounge. He would no doubt shake his head in disgust if he learned my business practices were no different, then say, all the other arrogant and deceptive CEOs he too has worked for. And, since I am writing this, they have all proven to be a stumbling block for me.
So, do my Christian standards set me up for failure or does it set the Christian, I have placed the standards on, up for failure?