Your personal opinion of Barack Obama may vary, but the former President of the United States was spot-on when he called out the prevalent culture of the day.
Mr Obama derided “call-out culture” in a speech at the Obama Foundation summit on Tuesday, saying achieving real change was more complex than being “as judgmental as possible”.
He added: “I get a sense sometimes now among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, that the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people and that’s enough.
“Like, if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself, cause: ‘Man, you see how woke I was, I called you out.’
“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff – you should get over that quickly.”
ARE WE A CALL-OUT CHURCH?
We can respond with indignance. Call him out for his irresponsible soundbites issued from atop a moral high horse. Or we can take this as an objective call for self-evaluation.
I think it’s beyond argument that Singapore is a call-out nation. Entire social media brands are built on calling out perceived injustices and other social sins, from high-handed treatment of security guards to clawing at crappy care of crabs.
But for those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ, we are to be in this world, yet not of it. Just because this is the culture of the world/nation we are in, should it automatically become our personal/church culture too?
Are we a call-out church, just like our call-out culture?
WE’RE KNOWN TO CALL OUT NON-CHRISTIANS
Sadly, this is probably what Christians are best known for among non-Christians. Not our acts of love, not our depths of devotion. Our judgmentalism.
We bluster for bans on bands we brand as bad. We harumph when someone who doesn’t dress like us steps into a church. We make long faces and large detours around smokers on the street.
The issue is not that said music, fashions and personal habits are always good and acceptable. We are called to make spiritual judgments about all things (1 Corinthians 2:15) and act accordingly.
When Jesus said “do not judge” in Matthew 7:1, He didn’t mean not to judge anything at all. “Instead, judge correctly,” Jesus instructs us in John 7:24.
The problem lies in the spirit in which we judge others. A judgmental spirit, rather than a discerning spirit.
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 5:12. Note that he has in the preceding verses made discernment calls about those outside the church, calling them “immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters” (1 Corinthians 5:10). But what he withholds from them is the judgment of condemnation.
So – discern, by all means, and act, as led by the Spirit. Just not in a spirit of condemnation, but by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation which brings all into the knowledge of Jesus (Ephesians 1:17), the Spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1) and the Spirit of love (2 Timothy 1:7).
WE’RE KNOWN TO CALL OUT CHRISTIANS
You know why we’re called Protestants, right? It started with a protest.
And you know why we have denominations, yes? It’s a less painful word than “division”.
Before you start accusing me of being a call-out Christian, note that such division was an issue that needed dealing with right from the beginning of the early Church.
For example, Paul had to write the entire letter we now know as 1 Corinthians because of too many divisions in the church of Corinth. They were divided over leadership (Chapters 1-4), response to sin and offence (Chapters 5-6), believers’ freedoms (Chapters 7-9), and Church doctrine (Chapters 10-14).
And the call-out culture was alive and well 2,000 years ago. “Your meetings do more harm than good… I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you.” (1 Corinthians 11:17-18)
“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought,” Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:10.
All these years later and we still haven’t heeded Paul’s plea. The fissures are ongoing. We still hear of churches calling out other churches over doctrinal differences. Prominent Christian leaders putting down other leaders. Members decrying their leaders for not leading in a manner they believe is the right way to lead.
We live in a church age where many Christians see meekness as weakness, and humility as a liability. Where truth is a weapon and not a door to freedom, where grace is something only God need extend, where judgment triumphs over mercy.
WE NEED A CALLED-OUT CULTURE
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call.” (Ephesians 4:4)
“God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our Gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 2:14)
The judgmental Christian – whether towards those in church or beyond – has forgotten the grace and mercy extended to us by Jesus on the Cross. The Good News is the fact that we won’t fall on the wrong side of judgment, thanks not to how good we are (we aren’t), but to how good God is.
How good is He? He called us out of the darkness and into His wonderful light, to one hope, to share in the glory of Jesus not because of our perceived worth but in spite of our unworthiness. And so we should come as broken vessels, dead to self, not full of ourselves.
We are called to Him, and thereby called to good works. What are good works? That which declares His praises. Whatever shows forth Jesus.
Are we guilty of perpetuating a call-out culture, in Obama’s words, whether in church, in our personal views or on social media? Are we the first to jump on the bandwagon of moral outrage? Are we among the number when the saints go marching into every online witch hunt or Christian lynch mob?
Are we known by our hate?
Or do we as Christians hold on to a called-out culture? Where everything we say and do, in church and beyond, is done conscious of our calling to serve the Servant King and point others to Him?
Are we known by our love?
The love we receive from above (1 John 4:19), the love we show for one another (John 13:35), our love for those in need (Proverbs 14:31) and even our love for those who don’t love us (Luke 6:35)?
Obama was right. It’s not good enough to be woke by the world’s standards. What we really need is to awaken to the reason God put us in a ugly, messy world.