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Sandra Sugar Swanepoel
 
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Judgment: do you demonstrate God, or do you play God?

28 February 2014, 13:23
New Test Leper – R.E.M.
I can’t say that I love Jesus / That would be a hollow claim?He did make some observations / And I’m quoting them today?“Judge not lest ye be judged” / What a beautiful refrain?The studio audience disagrees / Have his lambs all gone astray?
Call me a leper / Call me a leper / Call me a leper
“You are lost and disillusioned!” / What an awful thing to say?I know this show doesn’t matter / It means nothing to me?I thought I might help them understand / But what an ugly thing to see?“I am not an animal” / Subtitled under the screen
Call me a leper / Call me a leper / Call me a leper
When I tried to tell my story / They cut me off to take a break?I sat silent five commercials / I had nothing left to say?The talk show host was index-carded / All organized and blank?The other guests were scared and hardened?What a sad parade / What a sad parade
Call me a leper / Call me a leper / Call me a leper
(Official music video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_c_Yg8azAi0)When Michael Stipe’s somnolent monotone isn’t verbalising frustratingly enigmatic lyrics, it can give me a jolt that leaves me shuddering for days.
New Test Leper expresses Stipe’s thoughts pertaining to the experience of being a talk show guest. The show covered the topic of being judged. Read what R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck had to say about the lyrics here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Test_Leper
Stipe makes some rather disquieting observations on discussions about beliefs. Talk shows can be melting pots for horrific human behaviour, but does this also play out in non-televised contexts? Have you been part of a conversation that mimics what has featured in Stipe’s encounters?
The song drips with the judgment he feels has been leveled against him. It’s also clear that he’s often been cut off when trying to explain his point of view and beliefs.
There’s a strong sense that the “evangelising” Stipe has been subject to hasn’t struck him as coming from the heart. All he hears are glib platitudes, which he’s resorted to recycling into weapons of self-defence. In the end he’s left feeling alienated and appalled by the way the matter has been handled.
Sharing one’s faith is not a simple, textbook process. Everyone you encounter has different experiences, biases and expectations. And so do you. What’s more, fumbled attempts to hand out your religion to others can shake your own faith.
But don’t lose heart; God wouldn’t have given the command to share His good news if doing so was ultimately going to be destructive and futile.
The last thing I’d claim to have is all the answers, but here’s what I’d like to see myself doing:* When a person is willing to hear about my beliefs and offer their thoughts, I’d like to show them that same level of respect, rather than resorting to clumsy Bible bashing tactics.* On that note, I never heard of Jesus steamrolling anyone with a giant Scriptural scroll. Instead, my understanding is that He backed up what He said and did with compassion and a sound understanding of the Word of God. As a Christian, I am called to imitate Christ.* I’d like to imitate the love and humility Christ showed in His dealings with mankind. He took it to the extreme, meeting people where they were at by stepping down from heaven and being plunged into hell thanks to His great love for us.* I’d like to remember that while talk has its place, living the beliefs I proclaim is the proof people will look for.* I’d like to look to God; praying for His guidance in enacting the commission He’s given us.* I’d like to remember that God is sovereign in all things, and to trust that as I play my role, He will ultimately bring to fruition His will.
I won’t give up on my call to share the gospel message and I pray that you won’t either. I hope, instead, that I’ve given you some interesting insights and made you think about how we bear witness to Christ.

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