Jesus and Cancel Culture

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So this post has been edited and edited and editeeeeed since AUGUST 2019. I took some chunks of this post and added it to The Lonely Jesus. So you could think of this as part two. What pushed me to finally finish it up was this tweet:

In the past decade or so, there’s been a great shift in the cultural mindset regarding personal growth and mental health. Two things I believe have been largely ignored to the detriment of our society. As this movement has been steadily growing, some of the buzzwords/phrases I’ve been hearing are:

  • Toxic/Toxicity
  • Canceled
  • Protect your energy
  • Problematic

I’m going to focus on cancel culture and how it aligns with Jesus and His teachings. If you see anything in this post that seems a bit off-base please PLEASE contact me. If you are working on growing in these areas like I am, don’t let this guilt you, but rather move you to persevere. We are all truly works in progress. And with that, let us dive into to Jesus and Cancel Culture.

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Cancel Culture

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“In pop culture, canceled means to make someone or something irrelevant due to current drama.”

-Urban Dictionary

For the more seasoned folks, “canceled” is comparable to “cutting off”.

This trend is very difficult to line up with Jesus’ teaching because He is all about forgiveness, love, and repentance. But there is a scripture that comes to mind that gives room for a form of cancellation.

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Matthew 18:15-17

Jesus outlines quite a few steps before you treat a member of God’s family like a pagan or tax collector. God calls His people to pursue peace and repentance until it is clear that the other party is unwilling to do so. And even after we find that someone is unwilling to live as God intended we are still called to pray for and love everyone.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” 

Matthew 5:43-48

Cancel culture revolves around “loving those who love you”, but Christians are called to a higher standard of love. Where would each of us be if someone didn’t love and pray for us when we were in deep darkness? Where would we be if no one reached out their hand to us? Who are we if we are not following Jesus’ example of loving everyone around Him including the very people He knew would murder Him?

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But What If They…

One of the reasons I delayed publishing this post was because I have been both hurt by and struggle with being a part of cancel culture. I worried if this would end up being a biased and/or hypocritical post. To this day I’ve wrestled with thoughts like:

  • They hurt me a lot, why talk to them ever again?
  • I’m obviously a toxic person, I deserve to be alone.
  • They can’t seem to understand to me, so what’s the point?
  • If people are gonna cancel me, I’ll cancel them too.
  • Things were bad before, the situation will never get better.
  • Why fill my life with drama again? It’s easier to avoid them.

Jesus was surrounded by fake friends, religious bigots, an overbearing family, insincere fans and on top of all of that He was striving to not sin AND aware of a horrific death waiting for Him which will save all of humanity. Also, you can’t forget that He still took time to be with His Father, healed people, taught lessons, mentored His disciples and engaged in rigged debates. If anyone needed to “protect their energy” it was Jesus.

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In this world we’re taught that it’s okay to shun a person without compassion because they didn’t get with the program fast enough. But Jesus gives us an example that is the complete opposite.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.‘ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Matthew 8:2-11

Jesus’ love and compassion for both the religious leaders and the woman is clearly seen in this passage. He shows them both the way, but ultimately He leaves the choice to them if they want to be righteous or not. The lesson I see for us is that we must always be willing to be a light and love anyone, whether or not they turn from their unrighteous ways. Condemnation is not our job.

It is important to respect a person’s willingness to change, sometimes people just need to wander off like the prodigal son. Regardless, we have a responsibility to mirror the Father’s heart who was watching the horizon and anxious to welcome the son back. (Matthew 15:11-32) But how are we going to do that if we’re just cutting people off left and right and staying on our little righteous island? It makes no sense and it is not of God.

The Unmerciful Heart

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Being influenced by cancel culture puts our hearts in danger of becoming unforgiving. Jesus warns us of this in the parable of the unmerciful servant.

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’  The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

Jesus’ standard of love and mercy seems crazy, he died for all of us who are “toxic” and “problematic”. If He behaved like the rest of the world, He would have done what’s best for Him and only associated Himself with crowds who had the same energy. When we are unmerciful, we cloak Jesus and extinguish the light we are meant to shine.

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“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

-Matthew 24:12-13

Evil is everywhere and thanks to the internet we get a front row seat to see the various ways it is flourishing worldwide. Because of this we are most definitely at risk for developing cold hearts. My call to Christians reading this is to let the love of God be stronger than the ways the world tries to harden us. We must pay attention to how trends are affecting us and fight to shine the light God has given us.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

-1 Corinthians 13:4-8

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