Friday, July 13, 2012

CHC Pre-Judgment Daze (Three Planks to Remove)

TITLE: CHC PRE-JUDGMENT DAZE (Three Planks to Remove)
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: 13 July 2012

[In this article, I want to caution anyone about pre-judging the CHC case. More importantly, it is to take another look at what Jesus means when He says, "Do not judge." It means to remove three planks of pre-judgment, so that whatever we say edifies rather than destroys.]

It has been more than 2 weeks since the much reported arrests of the five leaders from City Harvest Church in Singapore, including the founder, Kong Hee. I remember how this one news has become a hot-potato issue, splitting the public into multiple camps, both Christians inside the Church as well as outside the Church. The media has their say. The unbelievers have their say. Many vocal supporters of the arrested leaders also had their say. It does not take any genius to recognize at least three main views.

The first view is a point-blank judgment, that says, "You guys deserved it!" It is simply based on a gut-feel without firm reference to any pointed evidence. The second view is an active rebuttal to the first, but also committed the error of pre-judgment. This second view has triggered public statements of defence from both the Church as well as many individual groups within the MegaChurch. It looks like it is based on what they want to believe, more than what the evidence suggests.

The third view, are watchers, where people anticipate with interest how much punishment and how CHC is going to deal with the fallout of a potential conviction of the five prominent leaders. This is what the Germans call, "schadenfreude" in action, a word describing the heightened interest of people surrounding the misfortunes of others. It refers to the curiosity that peaks as a result of bad things that happen to other people. In John Portmann's treatise of this topic, he argues that our delight or disgust about bad things that happen to other people, is more a reflection of our own selves rather than the issue itself, (see my review of his book here). In my opinion, all of the three views above have committed the cardinal mistake of pre-judgment, albeit in varying degrees.

My purpose in this article is to make a plea to all not to pre-judge. Let justice runs its course. In the meantime, watch ourselves that we do not sin. Our goal is not to try to meddle in other people's messiness, but to deal with our own muddiness. Beware of three planks.

Beware the Three Planks of Pre-Judgment

A) The Statement, "Do Not Judge"

In this followup article to my earlier article on the CHC arrests, I want to bring into focus Jesus' teaching about judging one another. The first plank is what I call the "Shut Up" plank. In other words, when in doubt, learn to shut up. Let me quote the passage in full.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:37-42)
The words, "Do not judge!" are often quoted for selfish reasons. Instead of letting God's word speak, it has become a tool to shut people up, especially those who oppose your view. It has become three useful words to take the moral high ground. It has become commonly used but often misunderstood.

Legal wise, the courts have recently sent out warnings to CHC to shut up as the case is pending judgment. Likewise, it has warned other inside parties not to comment farther on the particulars of the case. My question is this: Is "Do Not Judge" equated to only shutting up? No. When in doubt, shut up. Can we who are blind to the facts, see clearly what the facts are about?

B) The Sawdust and the Plank

The second plank goes beyond shutting up. It is the "Ask Appropriate Questions Humbly" plank.  When Jesus says, remove the plank from our own eye first? It does not just mean that we shut ourselves up. Neither does it mean we cannot comment anything at all.  It means, if you want to make statements, do so out of a clear heart and mind. Better still, be pure as God the Father is pure. Let me deal with the context of "Do Not Judge." In the preceding verses, remember the few examples? I call them the two negatives and the two positives. Note the reciprocal nature.
  • NEGATIVE: If we judge, be prepared to be judged likewise.
  • NEGATIVE: If we condemn, we will likewise be condemned.
  • POSITIVE: If we forgive, we will likewise be forgiven.
  • POSITIVE: If we give, it will be given to us.
In addition, Jesus reminds us that the blind cannot lead another blind, just like a student cannot pretend to be more than his Master, until he is fully trained, that is. Jesus then lists the impediments to our own journey to holiness: Pre-judgment. I call this the pre-judgment daze. Pre-judgement daze is that condition of a muddled person trying to use his own mud to wash another person's dirt.

We become muddle-headed when we commit the following pre-judgments. We dazzle ourselves into self-deception when we fill our heads,
  • Thinking we are so smart and knowledgeable as if we have seen all the evidence with our eyes and testimonies with our own ears.
  • Thinking that the crimes of others are worse than us.
  • Thinking that we see better than most.
If not, we will be behaving as if we know more than God, which is precisely what Jesus is speaking out against in Luke 6:40.

C) On the China Wine Music Video

The truth is, we are not as pure or innocent as we like to think. I know there are lots of criticisms over the "China Wine" project. Here, we need to be careful on what we mean by results.

When we criticize projects like "China Wine," are we being fair? Are we clear ourselves about the WHOLE project? If unsure, suspend your judgment. Only judge according to what you know or see. Leave speculation, and the unknowns as unknowns to us.

Personally, I do not have the details behind the rationale and the results of the music video. I do not like the video at all. That does not mean I can pre-judge the results or the process. For people who cannot see how "China Wine" can lead to conversions, they need to remove the "plank" out of their own eyes first, before they can see.

  • Rather than an emphatic, "This is useless!" Ask: "How is it useful for the Kingdom?"
  • Rather than declaring: "Those are worldly!" Ask: "Show me your reasons."
  • Rather than pre-judging the results, ask to learn from the people what is going on.

All of the three questions above do one thing: They disagree with the video, but are open to acknowledge the possible presence of other unpublished facts about the video. They ask appropriate questions without pre-judging.

Do not pre-judge the good intentions of others, especially those who accuse Sun Ho and Kong Hee of intentionally committing fraud, and of living off the money of the rest of the Church. The details remain unknown to most of us. Thus, let our judgments be minimal, better still, none. If you want to make a judgment, find out the facts first. Learn to ask appropriate questions without pre-judgment first. Humbly.

D) The Plank of Non-Involvement

The third plank I want to highlight is called the plank of non-involvement. Jesus warns those of us who "pay no attention" to our own eye. Those of us who think so highly about our own definitions of outreach and evangelism, what are we ourselves doing about it?

If China Wine is a "speck" people complain about, what about the "plank" of not doing anything at all with regards to witnessing, outreach, missions, and evangelism?

Some critics like to use the remote control of easy criticism to shoot down the efforts of others. If they themselves are unwilling to venture into unknown territory of Hollywood and the entertainment industry, why "pull the rug" out of others who are trying their best to be a witness there? By pre-judging the efforts and the results of "China Wine," are we not guilty of seeing the "sawdust" of the witness of China Wine, and ignoring the "plank" of non-action, non-outreach to the people in the entertainment industry? In other words, when we ourselves are not actively witnessing to the target industry, why are we then trying to pull out the "sawdust" of others trying their best to be a witness of Christ there?

The purpose of the sawdust and the plank episode is not that we cannot judge. It is we need to become clear and pure ourselves first, so that we can see the impurity outside us. For to try to give advice to another without ourselves being clear is doing others a disfavour. This is a critical teaching. Without being pure ourselves, we cannot judge or pre-judge others fairly. Let me close with a story. The great ascetic, Evagrius Ponticus tells the story of a disciple wanting to learn what purity is about. Asking the great teacher, the disciple asks what he must do in order to save his soul.

"Go and insult the dead." says Macarius, the Teacher.

The disciple obediently goes to the cemetery and insults the dead as best as he can. Returning to the Teacher, the Teacher then asks, "What did the dead say?"

"Nothing. They said nothing." comes the reply.

Macarius then says, "Be like the dead. Judge nobody and learn to keep silent."


Beware the three planks of judgment. If you have no facts at all, practice removing your first plank by shutting up. If you are genuinely interested in fairness, and in the kingdom of God, learn to remove the second plank by asking appropriate questions, without any pre-judgment. If you are personally aware of your own sinfulness, why highlight other people's sins more than your own? This leads us to the third and most important plank we need to remove: the plank of non-involvement.

There is a joke that talks about the difference between eggs and ham. The chicken contributes eggs, while the pig is totally committed. Too many people like to behave like chickens, throwing eggs at others. Remember that any party taken before the courts are fully in. They are fighting for their lives, their careers, their reputations, etc. It is not a time for anyone, especially a Christian to comment gleefully, or arrogantly. It is a time for us to reflect on ourselves and how we practise our faith. Above all, if any Christian thinks they are purer and brighter, and more Christlike than the arrested leaders of CHC, Kong Hee and all, do not simply talk. Show grace. Demonstrate gentleness. Let Christ shines through you.

If we can remove the three planks of pre-judgment, we will have done ourselves and others a favour. We have made a turn to the direction of holiness.

THOUGHT: "You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments that stand out, the moments when you have really lived, are the moments when you have done things in a spirit of love... The test of a man then is not, 'How have I believed?' but 'How have I loved?' The test of religion, the final test of religion, is not religiousness, but love. Not what I have done, not what I have believed, not what I have achieved, but how I have discharged the common charities of life." (Henry Drummond)


1 comment:

joshen said...

I am reminded of the 10 elders who said they cannot possibly enter the land, vs joshua and caleb who had faith.
Those who rather get by "safely" never saw the promised land...

Which is so sad because rahab said that all along the giants had been afraid of israel!

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