Challenging Condemnation

Erik Cooper —  April 11, 2011 — 11 Comments

A few weeks ago I had breakfast with my friend Danny Carroll, the pastor of Indy Alliance Church in the Fountain Square district of downtown Indy (and the wearer of great hats).

I love hanging out with Danny. He has uncanny insight, and he uses it to ask great questions. The kind that make you think. That make you go places you didn’t know you needed to go. That perhaps you didn’t want to go. Danny challenges me.

It’s a gift. But the beauty may be more in the way he uses it.

Never once during our many conversations have I ever feared his anger, rejection, or condescension (even when I may have deserved it). In fact, his personality is contagious. I always feel like Danny leaves me a little better than I was. And leaves me wanting more.

Similar encounters have been less inspiring. Sometimes a challenge goes all Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann (we have an equal opportunity metaphor policy here), leaving me hollow, guilty, and condemned. More like a drive by flogging. And no one wants to have coffee with that, even if it’s buying.

That got me thinking (what doesn’t?).  Where’s the transformation? When does David Banner turn into the Incredible Hulk? What’s the difference between challenging someone and condemning them?

Isn’t it ironic that the people who appeared to be like Jesus the least, were the ones who wanted to hang out with Him most? Everything about Jesus was a challenge. To their culture. Their perspectives. Their self-absorbed nature. His words must have been brutally uncomfortable at times. Challenging.

Yet Scripture is very clear, Jesus didn’t come to condemn, but to offer hope. Not to heap guilt, but to put the world right again (John 3:17).

So what’s the difference?

Challenge is essential for growth. For change. For transformation. But when does a healthy challenge turn into ugly condemnation? Are the two even related? When have you felt challenged? Condemned? What do you think is the difference?

Love to hear your thoughts.

11 responses to Challenging Condemnation

  1. Love your questions. Always gives me pause to think. More complex than a simple answer would give justice. (Since when did that ever stop me from sharing what little I know …) Here is one piece of the puzzle from where I sit.

    The same challenge or encouragement will be received differently depending upon the condition of that persons heart. If one is filled with pride, I guaranty it will be received more like a “drive by flogging” despite the well intentions of the sender. Pride will pervert or strangle others best intentions.

    • That’s interesting insight Steve. So insecurity or pride can cause misinterpretation? I definitely agree. But when does the “challenger” overstep?

      • You’ve heard it said, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” An unconventional way to look at this is to say our “walking flesh” will receive condemnation. This takes us back to the spiritual condition of the “receiver.” The “overstepping challenger” “appears” when he is not received. Challengers apparently believe they have an obligation to speak into that person’s life. I think all Christians should encourage and (if so lead) challenge other Believers. Even an “overstepping challenger” will cause us to grow when we take what was said to the Throne Room. I liken this to walking in the Spirit. I can not receive condemnation there. We “know that God works all thing together for good…” even if it is only to take the overbearing challenger into His presence… In God’s presence everything changes, however I have discovered there is a greater tendency for me to change than those around me.

        I guess if a person cares enough to “challenge” or “condemn” me, they will both provide “opportunities for prayer.” What was meant for good will be taken as good. What was meant for or what I thought was meant for evil, God meant it for good.

  2. I love when God has lessons collide. Condemnation was the subject of my Bible study this morning. 🙂 I believe that challenge is when we have a healthy (key word) desire to improve who we are and how we act for the greater good of the Kingd…om. I believe condemnation occurs when we doubt our ability to be forgiven, and we forget how big our God is. Sometimes we want forgiveness, but we think we don’t deserve it, so we don’t forgive ourselves, and we choose to live in condemnation. Only God and our childlike faith can truly cleanse us no matter what our mistakes.

  3. Eric – Love this question, and I’ve been thinking along these lines as of late. Someone recently said I was being judgmental. I felt as if I was being challenging. 🙂

    People toss out the “judge not lest ye be judged” phrase a lot. I’ve also been wondering, what does it mean to judge?

    I think “challenging” is something that is done in love with a heart to ultimately see someone made into more of the person that God made them to be. Condemning is pointing out perceived faults with no real intention of helping the person or even believing that they can change. Challenging says, “I see this, and I believe you can be more.” Condemning says, “I see this, and this is who you are.”

  4. On the receiving end, I think it comes down to two things: trust and security. If I trust that the person speaking truly cares about me, I take their words as challenge. Personal security in my worth helps me turn condemnation into challenge when the person sharing cares more about being right than truly helping me. I don’t like it when people stand in judgment, but taking on condemnation is my choice. It’s hard at times, but the challenge in condemning situations is from God…to believe His love, forgiveness and grace in the face of someone who is displaying none of those things toward me. Wish knowing that made it easier to deal with.

    • So it’s as much about interpretation of the receiver as intent of the giver?

      • Absolutely. Has to be. You can’t control what people say or do. You can only control your response. Humility and personal security give you the ability to take criticism, look for the truth in it and leave the crappy package it might have come in. Ideal me tries to live like this. Wish I was always ideal me 🙂

      • I think on the giving end, Erik, there’s a certain amount of relationship that earns you the right to extend a challenge to someone you truly care about. I don’t know how to quantify in words how much relationship. I just kinda feel my way thru it with people and sometimes I mess up.

        I’ve learned that I have to know who I’m dealing with. There are people I am very close to that I won’t challenge much, because they are still too broken to receive it and grow. My words would only cause more damage.

        It’s definitely easier to receive than give for me.

  5. On our morning walk a friend and I asked essentially the same question. What does it really mean to judge a person & if we call each other out on our wrongs does it always mean we are judging. Where is the line? The only answer I can come up with is walk in love, compassion and your ears open to the Spirit.

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